cover image The Lotus Seed

The Lotus Seed

Sherry Garland. Harcourt Children's Books, $17 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-249465-0

The spare simplicity of Garland's tale about remembering one's birthplace is richly amplified by Kiuchi's arresting, light-filled paintings--his debut--awash with burnished gold and greens. As elegant as the lotus flower itself, the book's design includes subtle white borders on cream paper that frame both the poetic text and the opposing portrait-like illustrations. Garland ( Song of the Buffalo Boy ) focuses her story on Ba, a Vietnamese girl whose escape from the devastating war in Vietnam is told by her granddaughter. ``My grandmother saw / the emperor cry,'' she says, ``the day he lost / his golden dragon throne.'' Wanting a memento of the event, the child ``plucked a seed / from a lotus pod / that rattled / in the Imperial garden.'' Eventually, Ba arrives in America: ``a strange new land / with . . . towering buildings / that scraped the sky.'' (Kiuchi's overhead perspective of skyscrapers and streaming traffic is an especially striking image.) Ba plants the lotus seed; when it blooms, she gives each of her grandchildren one of its seeds so they will recall the land of her birth. The lotus, she tells them ``is the flower / of life and hope.'' Exquisite artwork fuses with a compelling narrative--a concise endnote places the story effectively within a historical context--to produce a moving and polished offering. Ages 8-up. Chil dren's BOMC Selection. (Apr.)