cover image Home: A Journey Through America

Home: A Journey Through America

. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201473-5

This visual pilgrimage to the native terrain of a variety of venerable writers suffers from Locker's visually homogeneous treatment of America's diverse landscapes. The journey begins in San Francisco, Robert Frost's birthplace (though most readers likely equate the poet with New England). His ""Once by the Pacific"" is comprised of strong, clear images: the ""great waves"" that ""thought of doing something to the shore/ That water never did to land before""; the clouds, ""low and hairy in the skies."" In Locker's painting, however, power is diverted from Frost's fierce flexure of the sea to a purple-to-black sky brooding over agitated water and cliffs glanced by light. Throughout Locker's tour, his brush seems dipped in the Hudson Valley light of his own homeland, and not surprisingly, the standout paintings here are those paired with an excerpt from Washington Irving's ""Rip Van Winkle""--depicting a leisurely sail up the Hudson River, the boat dwarfed by the dramatic Kaatskill mountains aflame at sunset--and his own ""Birches in the Fall"" with white trunks leaning inward, inviting readers down an autumn trail of golden grasses. But when called upon to conjure the Southwest of Pat Mora's ""Gold"" or the Amish country depicted in Merle Good's ""Song of a People,"" Locker fails to capture the indigenous palette and mood. Unfortunately, the book seems driven by its theme, rather than a celebration of it. Ages 6-10. (Oct.)