cover image Drylongso


Virginia Hamilton. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $18.95 (54pp) ISBN 978-0-15-224241-1

Endowing her eponymous protagonist with the mystical qualities of a folk hero and the wry wit of a boy, Newbery Medalist Hamilton has created a provocative tale with both spiritual and environmental allusions. Lindy and her parents rescue a tall, skinny ``stick-fella'' from a sudden dust storm. Named Drylongso for the periods of drought that ``lasted so long, folks thought it was just ordinary. Dry so long, it was common, like everyday,'' the strange boy brings with him the promise of new life--water. The adults cautiously accept his peculiar nature--his mysterious arrival, his unknown origins, his aphoristic, at times prophetic, statements on growth and life. In contrast, Lindy, who provides the tale with a measure of comic relief, bombards the boy with her curiosity; Drylongso's jokey affection for Lindy saves the story from cloying sentimentality. Pinkney's atmospheric watercolors highlight the strong familial bond central to the story; his characters and landscape superbly vivify Hamilton's barren clime. An afterword offers both a historical account of U.S. drought cycles and a cultural context for this intriguing central character. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)