cover image The Banshee

The Banshee

Karen Ackerman. Philomel Books, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-399-21924-5

In the evening, ``when Darkness has left no place for Light to hide,'' a banshee drifts through a small village, searching for a lonely soul to keep her company. Readers follow her as she peers in one window after another, but there are no desolate folk in these cozy cottages--just families bound together by tenderness and caring. Love keeps the villagers safe, and with the coming of the morning light, the banshee disappears. Ackerman ( Song and Dance Man ) is at her poetic best here, offering such lyrical images as: ``Mothers and fathers sit close and talk so softly that words lose their crisp edges, forming sounds as even and peaceful as bedtime prayers.'' In a striking picture book debut, Ray's unusually warm illustrations, frequently resembling woodcuts, have a timeless feel that helps soften a potentially unsettling subject. Although the theme here is certainly beyond the grasp of younger readers, this is an unusual, well-crafted story. Ages 3-8. (Mar.)