cover image Something Permanent

Something Permanent

Cynthia Rylant. Harcourt Children's Books, $18 (64pp) ISBN 978-0-15-277090-7

As in Rylant's Soda Jerk , the subjects of this extraordinary and elegantly designed volume are ordinary moments in the lives of ordinary people. Rylant, responding to Evans's famous photographs of America during the Great Depression, pens spare, gem-like poems that tell stories--of a couple hitching a ride to the city, of a barber proud of his shop. Almost devoid of obviously figurative language, the poems are an expressive complement to the poignant images in Evans's ( Let Us Now Praise Famous Men ) stark photographs. Even when the camera focuses on an inanimate object, the poems hone in on the human heart. A photograph of a crooked mantel inspires a description of a woman who ``knew about beauty and understood it.'' A picture of two empty iron beds speak to Rylant of a couple who ``would turn toward each other, and, / nestled in the warm breathing / of their other babies, / ease their weary minds / with the sex / they knew would likely make them / poorer / and / richer / all the same time.'' For the most part, the text deals with experiences and attitudes beyond the understanding of those at the younger end of the target audience, but older readers will respond to the book's eloquent and haunting images of loss, hope and love. Ages 10-up. (May)