cover image GAUCHADA


C. Drew Lamm, , illus. by Fabian Negrin. . Knopf, $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-375-81267-5

Lamm (The Prog Frince: A Mixed-Up Tale) opens this lyrical, somewhat sentimental story with a note explaining the title: in Argentina, to make a gauchada means "to do something kind, something with love, without expecting anything in return." Sitting in a field amidst cows, a gaucho carves a piece of bone into a crescent-shaped moon, which he then frames with silver and makes into a necklace. Next, the ideas grow a bit abstract and the narrative becomes labyrinthine: "Perhaps after the rains have again greened the pampas, perhaps after the cows stampede through the quebradas, perhaps after he has danced a thousand zambas, sometime after that… the gaucho who chose the bone and smoothed the silver and placed the stone will know." What he will know is "where the necklace will go." After the cowboy places the pendant around the neck of his grandmother, the necklace "lives a thousand lives," as it is passed from one individual to another. After the heirloom "crosses the ocean" on a liner, worn by a woman writer, the narrative swerves from its melancholy, introspective tone to address readers directly (the woman writer will give the gift of the necklace "perhaps to you"). If the prose is cryptic, the artwork smoothly blends folkloric elements with sweeping landscapes. Infused with light—often that of the moon itself—Negrin's (The Secret Footprints ) stylized, ethereal paintings effectively tweak traditional perspective and proportion. Ages 4-8. (Feb.)