cover image No Mirrors in My Nana's House [With ""Sweet Honey in the Rock""]

No Mirrors in My Nana's House [With ""Sweet Honey in the Rock""]

Synthia Saint James, Ysaye Barnwell. Harcourt Children's Books, $18 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201825-2

A member of Sweet Honey in the Rock, the a capella quintet of African American women, Barnwell brings musical cadences and bittersweet riffs to her first children's book. A girl grows up seeing the world through her Nana's loving eyes, rather than in a coldly objective reflection: ""There were no mirrors in my Nana's house/ no mirrors in my Nana's house/ I was intrigued by the cracks in the wall/ I tasted with joy the dust that would fall."" The image of herself that the girl would later be offered by the world outside her nurturing home is not reflected back to her, either: ""I never knew that my skin was too black/ I never knew that my nose was too flat."" Saint James's (How Mr. Monkey Saw the World) electric-hued acrylic paintings have a graphic boldness, with hard edges resembling collage art. Especially because a refrain centers on Nana's eyes, it seems unfortunate that the faces in the artwork have no features or expressions: and at the end, when the older woman says, ""Chil' look deep into my eyes,"" the reader can't discern any on Nana's face. Younger readers may wish for more visual expressiveness than the abstracted bodies can muster. Adults, however, will be attuned to the book's poignance, for its theme of feeling fully loved and at home in the world also necessitates the loss of childhood innocence. Ages 5-up. (Aug.)