cover image I Never Knew Your Name CL

I Never Knew Your Name CL

Sherry Garland. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $14.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-395-69686-6

First-time children's illustrator Greenberg's soft-edged pastels are as redolent of the lethal power of loneliness as is Garland's ( The Lotus Seed ; Song of the Buffalo Boy ) spare, dramatic text. A nameless narrator, new to the neighborhood, is first shown alone in his room, spinning a basketball. ``The first time I saw you,'' he says, addressing the teenager from across the street, ``you were shooting hoops in the moonlight''--the illustration demonstrates that the teen was also alone. Via a disturbing series of vignettes, the younger boy then embarks on a retrospective of the teen's life, which has ended in suicide. The narrator recalls ``the other guys from the corner,'' seen playing basketball in sunshine, who never included the teen; the stray dog the teen fed before it was hauled off to the pound; the teen's crush on the narrator's big sister, who had callowly spurned him; and so on. The narrator's own lost opportunities to reach out provide a regretful counterpoint, echoed in others' shocked reactions to the death. Subdued light in the final spread supports the beautifully tuned, restrained encomium. Although this volume may be unsettling as an introduction to the topic of teen suicide, it will be of great value to those marked by a like tragedy. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)