cover image Hieronymus White

Hieronymus White

Jeffrey Moss, Jeff Moss. Ballantine Books, $16 (82pp) ISBN 978-0-345-38590-1

Moss's (The Butterfly Jar) nimble rhymed verse recounts the life and times of a bird named Hieronymus White, whose parents relocated before his birth to escape a society where only conformity is tolerated. His parents expect the very best of him, ostensibly for his own good: ""If it's you who flies highest, then no one can reach you/ To hurt you or tease you or tell you you're wrong,/ To make you feel sad and not let you belong."" The boy learns this lesson all too well: he becomes famous for his peerless flying ability, but he is also a world-class know-it-all. And when Hieronymus marries and has twins, he urges them to be ""better than best."" He tells them exactly what to do, yet is never quite satisfied: ""But though each of his children was quite a good flier,/ Hieronymus wanted still better and higher."" Finally, in old age, Hieronymus changes his self-righteous tune when he learns a key lesson from a loving, talented granddaughter whose imperfect wing prevents her from flying. Accompanied by Demarest's playful line drawings, Moss's allegorical tale imparts several valuable messages-some of them may fly over small children's heads; indeed, most of the lessons here are aimed at parents. All ages. (Nov.)