Cynthia Rylant, , illus. by Harvey Stevenson. . Harcourt, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201078-2

Rylant (the Little Whistle series) wisely explores a child's separation anxiety through her relationship with her doll. The author conveys the girl's bond with the doll, handmade for her by Grandmama ("It was ticky, her mother said, because Grandmama had made it from sewing scraps. And it was tacky because pieces of cloth hung from it like soft bits of hair"), through the rhythms of their day, their trips to town, a shared meal ("At the supper table the doll fit snugly on the little girl's lap, and its eyes could see what was for dinner"). Stevenson's (Bye, Mis' Lela) paintings cast a magic glow on the pair, inseparable in the opening spreads. He portrays the doll with a seam down the middle of her smiling face, X's for eyes and a mop of striped and polka-dotted fabric strips for hair. On the first day of school, when the girl must leave the doll at home, she withdraws completely: Stevenson shows her with head bowed at a table, markers and paper untouched. Only Grandmama knows what is wrong, and she comes up with an innovative solution. With the barest of statements, Rylant affirms the child's feelings and conveys the bond between child and grandparent ("Grandmama had lived a long time and knew about loneliness and missing someone," while the illustration shows a framed picture of her grandfather). Stevenson's artwork, with its layered, contrasting planes of blue and gold, resembles the loving patchwork of the doll itself. Ages 3-7. (Aug.)