cover image When Snow Lay Soft on the Mountains

When Snow Lay Soft on the Mountains

Patricia Hermes. Little Brown and Company, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-316-36005-0

Steeped in almost sugary sweetness, Hermes's (On Winter's Wind) first picture book gains its momentum from her inspired turns of phrase and Baker's (Honkers; Looking for Angels) soft, intimate watercolors. Hallie and her father, figures from an indistinct rural past, have a close relationship, making wishes on their moonlit walks while ""above them, stars hung so low they seemed to tangle in the branches of the cottonwood tree."" But he falls ill and for several months Hallie must take care of him. She is lonely but selfless, and her devotion is eventually rewarded with the fulfillment of her greatest, always unvoiced wish: a doll with a china head. Baker's winter-hued illustrations, particularly the nighttime scenes of coyote pups or rabbits bathed in lavender light, are as calm and quiet as snowfall. They stress Hallie's resilience: where the text describes a Christmas without any presents, the art shows the girl stoically hanging up paper ornaments. Even with its treacly ending, this offering should satisfy readers in the mood for an old-fashioned moral tale. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)