cover image HEARTBEAT


Sharon Creech, . . HarperCollins/Cotler, $15.99 (180pp) ISBN 978-0-06-054022-7

Creech returns to the free-verse form she employed so successfully in Love That Dog for this insightful exploration of life's beginning and ending and the joys to be encountered on the journey. Twelve-year-old narrator Annie loves to run but has no interest in competing. She likes hearing the "thump-thump, thump-thump " of her bare feet hitting the damp grass, and running alongside her friend Max when he joins her, stride for stride. The running becomes a metaphor: Annie's grandfather who once loved to run is now growing forgetful; Max joins the track team and his wish to win drives a wedge between them; and Annie's father and pregnant mother take her with them to hear the baby's heartbeat ("a-whoosh-a-whoosh-a-whoosh / very fast/ as if the alien baby/ must be running hard"). Annie describes her own heartbeat as "thump-THUMP, thump-THUMP ," curiously close to the rhythm of her running. Through Annie's observations, Creech eloquently captures the contrast between the baby's embarkation on life and Grandpa's slow withdrawal from it: "It is as if/ he is evaporating/ or shrinking/ disappearing—/ little pieces vanishing each day/ while the alien baby/ grows bigger and bigger." Annie's growing interest in and talent for drawing becomes a theme that develops so subtly that readers may be surprised by the ways in which the threads of the novel come together for a fully satisfying conclusion. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)