cover image Nettie Jo's Friends

Nettie Jo's Friends

Patricia C. McKissack. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $17 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-394-89158-3

McKissack, known for Flossie and the Fox and the more recent Mirandy and Brother Wind , joins forces with Cook, who debuted last year with a painterly version of The Gingerbread Boy. Their combined talents in this book create a folktale that, if convoluted, has many valuable points. Nettie Jo's mother is sewing her a new dress for a wedding. But Nettie Jo wants to make sure her doll, Annie Mae, has a new dress, too. She has the fabric, but with all the women preparing for the wedding, a sewing needle is scarce. So Nettie Jo leaves home to find her own needle, enlisting the help of a rabbit, a fox and a panther. The story aptly shows the power of a little imagination in creating solutions, and there is a fine piece of dramatic tension when Nettie Jo gets up the courage to face Panther. But the rest of the story unwinds without a definite sense of cause and effect; the animals race aroundpredator and preybut their sudden attack of good manners is inexplicable. As for Cook, he again employs a technique that leaves shimmering streaks of paint on the page. But Nettie Jo's face, capable of great expression on some pages, seems almost frozen in others. The potential for excellence is here, but readers' expectations will remain mostly unfulfilled. Ages 4-9. (Apr.)