cover image Shaker Boy

Shaker Boy

Mary Lyn Ray. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $15.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-15-276921-5

Winter's (Diego) primitive-style art, notable for its intense hues, unusual juxtaposition of color and strength of line, is the perfect foil to this story of a boy whose widowed mother sends him to live at a Shaker community. Ray (Pianna) skillfully weaves fact and a touch of fancy (Caleb hears ""angels"") into an absorbing, informative tale. As readers watch Caleb grow from youth to manhood, they gain an understanding of the Shaker creed, including its reverence for a way of life firmly rooted in the cycle of seasons. Caleb's first job is in the hen house (the kitchen needs 280 eggs each morning for breakfast), then he progresses to the cow barn, the broom shop, sugaring off, planting and harvesting, and the print shop, where he prints the songs he has learned and makes them into a book. Along the way, the angels teach Caleb songs, lyrics and scores of which are incorporated into the text. Finally, Caleb is made deacon of the apple orchard, where he spends the remainder of his life gathering apples-and songs. It's a work of craftsmanship on all levels: exceptionally well written, elegantly designed and lovingly illustrated. Ages 5-8. (Oct.)