cover image Bells of Santa Lucia

Bells of Santa Lucia

Gus Cazzola. Philomel Books, $14.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-399-21804-0

Written in unadorned yet graceful language, Cazzola's debut concerns a girl from an Italian village ``who loves bells.'' Morgan's ( The Turnip ) bright, folksy illustrations evince a hearty rusticity perfectly suited to the sweet and compassionate story. (The straightforwardness of the art, in fact, prevents the book from slipping into a facile sentimentality.) Bells abound in Santa Lucia--on the animals, at the school, in the square--but unfortunately Lucinda associates their sound with her grandmother, who used to ring a bell to summon the girl to her bedside. When the old woman dies, Lucinda can no longer bear the bells' ringing, even during Santa Lucia's annual Festival of the Bells. A dire emergency impels her, however, to ring the largest town bell (called, in a nice narrative touch, the Grandmother Bell) in order to save the townspeople. Similar in setting to the Caldecott-winning The Song of the Swallows , this substantial and deftly told tale says much about relinquishing grief and contributing to the larger community in which we live. Ages 3-7. (Nov.)