cover image No Star Nights

No Star Nights

Anna Egan Smucker. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $15 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-394-89925-1

Like Judith Hendershot and Thomas Allen's In Coal Country , this first picture book for both author and artist is not a story so much as a loosely joined series of reminiscences. ``Whenever the grandchildren come back to visit,'' the narrator recalls, they love to hear about the days when the West Virginia mill's furnace ``turned the darkness into a red glow'' and there were ``no star nights.'' Johnson's richly textured and subtly shaded paintings nicely capture the ``whirling world of smoke'' and people who lived in the rust-colored valley in the 1940s and '50s. Like an oral history, the narrative details scenes that were ``wonderful to watch'': glowing clouds billow from tall smokestacks, golden steel is ladled from the open hearth, little girls crouch down to keep their bare legs from being stung by graphite, and the crane that looks ``like a dinosaur with huge jaws'' is constantly at work. Ages 5-10. (Oct.)