cover image Too Far Away Touch CL

Too Far Away Touch CL

Leslea Newman. Clarion Books, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-395-68968-4

Stock's (Tap-Tap) soft-focus watercolors provide a delicate foil for this exceptionally thoughtful story of a girl whose uncle has AIDS. Zoe treasures her visits with Uncle Leonard, but on this particular outing-to the planetarium-he seems different. He tires easily, and his once-abundant hair is now sparse, hidden beneath a beret. At a cafe, he tells her that he is sick, and answers questions honestly (""Are you going to get better soon?"" ""I don't know, Zoe""). His surprise for her-glow-in-the-dark stars for her bedroom ceiling-reminds her of something he said at the museum, that the stars are ""too far away to touch, but close enough to see."" This comforting message is repeated on a later trip to the beach, where the two watch for shooting stars and discuss the possibility of his death. Newman's (Fat Chance; Heather Has Two Mommies) treatment of her subject is singularly sensitive, carefully tuned to a young audience. Uncle Leonard's partner, for instance, is mentioned matter-of-factly, though the relationship itself is left unexplored. Despite the sombre theme, the story ends on an uplifting note, and it's hard to imagine a more appropriate book for young readers that deals so gently and insightfully with such an important topic. Ages 5-9. (Mar.)