cover image Sacred Places

Sacred Places

Jane Yolen. Harcourt Children's Books, $17 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-15-269953-6

Yolen and Shannon, previously paired for the rollicking Ballad of the Pirate Queens, turn solemn in this verse-and-picture tour of sacred places around the world. Visiting 12 sites, the book attempts, with mixed results, an empathetic introduction to a variety of beliefs and practices from past and present religions. Subjects range from the ambiguous oracle of Delphi, speaking truth ""from the perfumed cave,/ from the earth's dark center,/ from the navel of the world,"" to the Shinto shrine Itsukushima. While she relies heavily on repetition, Yolen's approaches vary: ""Wailing Wall"" reflects a contemporary view of Jerusalem; ""Easter Island"" asks who made the great carved heads; ""Cathedrals"" echoes the rhythms of nursery rhymes (""This is the crypt,/ This the nave,/ This the apse,/ These the graves""). Shannon's paintings more successfully capture different moods, as in a brooding and mist-shrouded Stonehenge, a glowing image of a stained glass window or a night view of Uluru (Ayers Rock) with animal forms from the Dreamtime creeping up its side. A bookend poem, ""Hush,"" calls for respect and on its second appearance grandly but unconvincingly asserts that ""Since you have been here,/ truth has been shaped,/ truth has been shifted,/ truth has been shown in its many forms."" Ages 6-12. (Sept.)