cover image Baby


Patricia MacLachlan. Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, $15.95 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-385-31133-5

After bidding good-bye to the last of the ``summer people,'' Larkin, her parents and grandmother return home to find a baby in a basket. ``I cannot take care of her now, but I know she will be safe with you. . . . I will come back for her one day. I love her,'' reads a note from the child's mother. The little one's name is Sophie, and she brings a great deal of joy and comfort to the household. Yet casting a shadow on this spirited baby's luminous presence is the family's knowledge that she does not truly belong to them, and that she cannot take the place of Larkin's brother, who died in infancy. The Newberry Medalist's lean yet lyrical narrative gracefully entwines past and present, as brief passages present an older Sophie's fragmented memories of her interlude with the family. Inspired by poems, songs and Sophie's growing vocabulary, Larkin (whose mother communicates through her paintings and whose father expresses himself through his tabletop tap dancing) ponders the meaning and power of words (``There were words in the spaces between us; those words we had never spoken, words about what I thought was right''). If the story is not as compelling as Sarah, Plain and Tall or Journey , MacLachlan's style remains masterly. It is difficult to read her sentences only once, and even more difficult to part from her novel. All ages. (Oct.)