cover image Appalachia: The Voices of Sleeping Birds

Appalachia: The Voices of Sleeping Birds

Cynthia Rylant. Harcourt Children's Books, $17 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201605-0

Like a cherished photograph album, this portrait of Appalachia by two natives of the region is suffused with memories made golden by time. Beginning with the dogs that are ``named Prince or King'' and live in towns ``with names like Coal City and Sally's Backbone,'' Rylant moves to the people, their houses and their activities. Neither story nor factual treatise, the text offers pure nostalgia--a skillfully structured essay that appears, deceptively, to meander like a dusty country lane and underscores the warmth, generosity of spirit and steadfastness of the inhabitants of the ``shimmering painted mountains.'' Rylant is frequently effusive: ``The men and women and children who live in Appalachia have no sourness about them,'' she says; and ``The children love all the seasons.'' But when she focuses on particular details, lyricism suffuses her prose: the ``mountains wear heavy shawls of fog, and giant moths flap at the porch lights while cars cut through the dark hollows like burrowing moles.'' Moser's masterfully executed paintings--from the stretching coon dog to the biscuits that wait on the iron stove--find beauty in plainness, capturing the culture and people of the hollows with affection and sensitivity. Ages 5-up. (Apr.)