cover image The Girl Who Wanted a Song

The Girl Who Wanted a Song

Steve Sanfield. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-200969-4

Inspired by a Zen Buddhist tradition, this ethereal tale trades flesh-and-blood characters for a rarefied plot. Wandering the woods near her aunt's home and ""wondering what her life would become,"" newly orphaned Marici is enveloped in the songs of birds, frogs, crickets. Each day and night she longs for her own song. She passes her days as night clouds pass over the moon-without song, until she catches a glimpse of an elusive goose. In dreams alternating with actual events, the girl remembers lost melodies as she helps the goose to reclaim its own voice as well as its ability to fly. Sanfield's (Bit by Bit) prose and Johnson's (Alphabet City) watercolor and pastel illustrations are undeniably beautiful and suggestive, and perhaps, like the pictorial work that inspired it, the book is meant as a tool for meditation. But as storytelling it is self-conscious, too evidently fraught with its own sense of mission. Ages 5-8. (Oct.)