cover image The Memory String

The Memory String

Eve Bunting. Clarion Books, $16 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-395-86146-2

Resentful of her new stepmother, Laura clings to a family heirloom, a ""memory string"" of buttons taken from special garments. As her father and her stepmother, Jane, paint the porch, Laura sits apart and fingers each button, loudly telling her cat about her great-grandmother's first ""grown-up dress,"" her father's Gulf War service uniform and, last, the nightgown her mother was wearing when she died. Bunting's (Smoky Night) prose is as sure-footed as ever, but is much encumbered here by a contrived plot that has Laura losing the buttons and the family coming together in the search for them. A rapprochement between Laura and Jane, who finds the final missing button, is all but inevitable. Even Rand's (Baby in a Basket) light-dappled watercolors can't rescue the story from its didactic intent; this is likelier to engage adults looking for books that address a particular subject (such as stepparenting) than children. Ages 5-8. (Aug.)