cover image The Blue Hill Meadows

The Blue Hill Meadows

Cynthia Rylant. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201404-9

Newbery Medalist Rylant's (Missing May) talent for bringing sparkle to the everyday world of family, pets and friends is evident in her latest offering, which has a format designed to fill the gap between beginning-to-reads and longer chapter books. Four short chapters, each set in a different season, describe the simple but bountiful existence of Willie Meadow and his family in the peaceful countryside of Blue Hill, Va. In summer, the family is overjoyed when Willie's father takes in a stray dog who is soon to have puppies. In the fall, Willie goes fishing with his dad; winter brings a blizzard, uncommon in Blue Hill; and spring finds Willie looking for the perfect gift for Mother's Day. Rylant's spare writing and hushed tone focus attention on the seemingly small details of day-to-day life that are most important to Willie and his family. Every word is carefully chosen, and it is this precise rendering of each chapter's adventure that makes it special. For example, when Willie and his father are setting off on their fishing trip, Rylant says, ""They didn't talk much and this seemed right. The whole earth was being quiet, and they with it."" The text is highlighted by Beier's (Mrs. Peachtree and the Eighth Avenue Cat) soft-toned, idyllic full-page watercolors and spot art of pumpkins, steaming cups of tea, puppies enjoying naps, and other inviting aspects of Blue Hill. A lovely volume that will make the leap into longer stories as comfortable as a favorite shirt or overstuffed chair. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)