cover image Honkers


Jane Yolen. Little Brown and Company, $14.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-316-96893-5

As this sentimental tale of the heart's ``own compass'' begins, Betsy is packed off to Nana and Grandy's farm one spring while her mother battles a difficult pregnancy and her father remains hard at work. At first Betsy feels homesick: ``Those days went by quick and slow. Quick and slow. Quick when letters came written in Mama's careful hand. But so slow in between.'' Her grandparents ask her to look after some abandoned goose eggs and, eventually, to help rear the goslings. Yolen's ( Letting Swift River Go ) measured, deliberate cadences echo those of a fireside storyteller, a coziness enhanced by her turn-of-the-century setting. She packs her tale with atmospheric images--the goslings growing up as the pile of Mama's letters grows in its box; the sounds of the birds. Betsy departs for home at summer's end as the goslings, now adults, fly home as well: the girl, like the geese, has become certain of her place in the world. Baker's ( The Third-Story Cat ; All Those Secrets of the World ) soft, realistic watercolors in sepias and grays dreamily conjure up the long-ago farm, with its billowing grasses, moonlit barns and V-shaped squads of geese taking wing in the wide-open skies. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)