cover image LARKY MAVIS


Brock Cole, . . FSG, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-374-34365-1

Brock (Buttons) delivers a lyrical and ever-relevant picture book. Larky Mavis, depicted in loose-flowing but highly expressive watercolors as a simpleton in rags, "moons about" the byways and squares of a village where time has stopped. Stumbling upon three peanuts, she finds in one a creature she identifies as a little baby. She names him Heart's Delight and cherishes him, even after the schoolmaster calls him a worm, the parson proclaims him a mouse and the doctor labels him as a deformed bird or bat. Readers do not see Heart's Delight, so they will not know which, if any, definition fits. The text outlines the villagers' contempt for Mavis ("You're not to hang around the church," the parson reminds her. "People don't like it"), while the illustrations show her feeding a homeless family (not mentioned in the text) and villagers recoiling from her even as she faithfully tends her charge. Finally, villagers (and readers) get a glimpse of her child—first, what appear to be wings peek out of the bundle Mavis carries and, soon after, an angel emerges. Suddenly the schoolmaster, the parson and the doctor find uses for Heart's Delight, but he has his own purpose: he carries Mavis into the sky to an unnamed destination. The tale's enigmatic quality elevates it above a simple moral tale, and the scenes conveying Mavis's kindness will win sympathy for her. Brock draws material from fables, fairy tales and mythic archetypes to create a story that will resonate deeply with readers. Ages 4-8. (Aug.)