cover image Isabellas Bed Rnf

Isabellas Bed Rnf

Alison Lester, Allison Lester. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $14.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-395-65565-8

A grandmother's mysterious past provides the impetus for Lester's latest offering. Anna and Luis love sleeping in Isabella's bed whenever they visit their grandmother; the silver headboard ornaments intrigue them, as do the souvenirs from Grandmother's younger days in South America. But their questions awaken ``too many memories'' for Grandmother. With a goodly supply of visual clues, the reader joins the children on a dream journey through the landscape of Grandmother's sad song, about a woman who lost her heart when her husband ``drowned in the wild Crooked River.'' In fetching dreamscapes rendered in impressionistic brush strokes and intricate detailing, the children discover how each of the bed's ornaments fits into the past. But the somber undertone of Isabella's song never carries over into the nocturnal romp, nor is the voyage as engaging as Lester's Ruby or The Journey Home. Distancing rather than immersing the reader, this excursion feels contrived, and plods--a bit predictably--as the children check off significant sightings on their tour. That they are unable to infer anything preceding their dream (after all, their grandmother's name is Isabella) seems unbelievable. And although the dusty-toned paintings offer pleasing visual diversion, this somewhat muddled mystery tour lacks the magic of Lester's previous work. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)