cover image THE FLIGHT OF A DOVE


Alexandra Day, . . FSG, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-374-39952-8

Inspired by a true story, Day (Good Dog Carl ) draws a portrait of Betsy, a child who has "withdrawn so completely that she disliked being touched, would eat no solid food, made no sounds except a kind of hissing or clicking." The teachers at her school struggle to help her, but for months she seems unreachable until one of the school pets, a dove, becomes startled and takes to the air: "The flash of the soft white wings rising before her broke through the vacancy of Betsy's stare." Although some children may be put off by the initial images of Betsy literally portrayed within boxes in muted tones, the technique does telegraph the girl's isolation. And on the spread in which Betsy connects with the bird, the contrast in composition dramatically conveys the child's breakthrough. Subsequent illustrations also heighten the story's emotion as Betsy gingerly begins to hold hands with her classmates and pet a long avoided dog. Readers may well be interested in how the creatures play a role in Betsy's transformation, but the stiff, sometimes clinical writing and text-heavy pages likely won't grab their heartstrings. They're more likely to respond to the ending, when Betsy utters her first word ("Mommy"), a small victory that spells hope for a child so long trapped in her own mind. Ages 4-8. (Aug.)