cover image In a Blue Room

In a Blue Room

Jim Averbeck, , illus. by Tricia Tusa. . Harcourt, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-205992-7

If bedtime books were dances, this one would be a pas de deux: prose and pictures partner each other effortlessly all the way to the last page. At first, Alice doesn’t look like a candidate for bed; she’s in her nightgown, but she has leapt into midair, her blue blanket a billowing parachute, her room a pleasant mayhem of dolls and crayons. “ 'Blue is my favorite,’ ” Alice announces as Mama, robed and slippered, carries in a vase of flowers. “ 'And those—aren’t—blue,’” Alice adds, punctuating each word, the reader senses, with a bounce (by now, only the bottom of Alice’s nightgown and her stockinged feet are visible as the rest of her jumps out of view). “ 'Ah... but smell,’ ” Mama counters. Mama offers Alice more ritual things: tea to taste (“ 'Blue tea?’ says Alice, 'There’s no such thing’ ”), a quilt to feel, bells to listen to. They’re not blue, either, Alice protests, but she’s fading; in each successive painting she looks sleepier, her toys floppier, her bed snugglier. The rhythm of the words soothes: “In a blue room, orange tea cools in a brown cup”; “In a blue room, a quilt of red and green feels warm and cozy.”

These references to a blue room are a little odd: Alice’s walls are yellow. “ 'The moon... Mama,’ ” Alice murmurs, and Mama whispers, “ 'Here it comes.’ ” Click! The lamp goes off, and Alice’s room is transformed, bathed in the blue light of a full moon. Tusa’s (Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden ) pictures, on single pages before, now expand to fill both. Alice’s room is blue, and so are the flowers, the tea, the quilt, the bells, all just as Alice said. The stars and planets on Alice’s blue blanket travel out the window and up into the sky; everything merges. Tusa appears to have breathed in first-time author Averbeck’s text and then breathed it out as pictures. The final appearance of the blue room, which sounded so impossible at first, will feel to children like a promise kept. Ages 3-7. (Apr.)