cover image My America

My America

Jan Spivey Gilchrist, , illus. by Ashley Bryan and Gilchrist. . HarperCollins, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-06-079104-9

In celebration of this country's diverse population comes a title that marries color and copy to create a luminous work of art. Set to Gilchrist's (When the Horses Ride By) poetic verse, the text offers a series of questions that does not necessarily beg responses, but rather prompts children to take a closer look at the world around them. The words roll effortlessly off the tongue (“Have you seen my country? Seen my magic skies? Seen my mighty waters? Have you seen my land?”), though the page breaks occasionally interrupt their flow, which may have the effect of pushing readers ahead to finish the phrase. However, if the text propels things forward, the illustrations certainly invite lingering. Gilchrist's muted watercolors showcase sweeping naturalistic landscapes of swirling skies in majestic purple and golden hues and children exploring or integrated into the seas and universe around them. Bryan's spreads, in contrast, vibrate with a neon palette and seem to make visible the powerful energies that emanate from the natural world and its inhabitants. The alternating styles of illustration underscore the multitude of experiences and viewpoints that make Americans unique, furthering the text's tone of tolerance and acceptance. The final pages pay tribute to a modern world where peace is paramount: an international grouping of men and women stand smiling together, their hands firmly clasped in unity—a hopeful message to which future generations can aspire. Ages 4-8. (June)