cover image Dancing with Dziadziu

Dancing with Dziadziu

Susan Campbell Bartoletti. Harcourt Children's Books, $15 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-15-200675-4

Bartoletti's (Growing Up in Coal Country) mellifluously written tale revolves around the impending death of a beloved grandmother. Far from sad, the story is largely a celebration of Babci's life as a Polish immigrant. From her deathbed, Babci tells her granddaughter, Gabriella, her favorite life stories, including dancing with Dziadziu, her husband, and painting the chickens' feet blue so she would know which were hers. The love between grandmother and granddaughter is palpable, and despite the deathbed setting, the tone is one of joyful remembrance and calm acceptance: ""I know my grandmother will soon be dancing with Dziadziu again, but for now, her eyes are robin-egg bright for me."" Bartoletti weaves in a motif of rebirth with her references to eggs and Easter (which they celebrate two months early, because Babci doesn't expect to be around that long), which Nelson (Canto Familiar) underscores with rough-hewn, hand-colored linoleum cuts, in vivid colors and sharp patterns reminiscent of Eastern European Easter eggs. Their folksy cheeriness echoes the text's sensitive but matter-of-fact approach to death as simply part of life. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)