cover image Raven in a Dove House

Raven in a Dove House

Andrea Davis Pinkney. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201461-2

Grim foreshadowing adds weight and texture to this poignant and ultimately uplifting coming-of-age story set in Modine, N.Y., a town ""no bigger than a pig's knuckle"" but home to a long-established community of African Americans. When 12-year-old Nell Grady arrives for her annual summer visit at her great-aunt Ursa's house, everyone comments on how much she's grown up. Aunt Ursa says she's becoming a ""fine young lady""; 14-year-old Slade, her cousin Foley's best friend, calls her a ""butterscotch babe."" Nell quickly develops a crush on smooth-talking Slade, but she is shaken when he persuades her to hide a ""raven"" (pistol) for Foley in her old doll house. Nell's uneasiness about keeping the gun surfaces in frightening premonitions and bad dreams, preparing the audience for tragedy and trauma. While Nell's feelings remain the focus of the story, readers will also empathize with Aunt Ursa, who fears abandonment, and with Foley, who feels trapped in Modine. Pinkney's (Hold Fast to Dreams) characters emerge complex and real in this tale of home-town pride and family loyalty. Ages 11-up. (Apr.)