cover image Mud Family

Mud Family

Betsy James. Putnam Publishing Group, $15.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-399-22549-9

An Anasazi setting imparts freshness and originality to an ageless childhood dilemma: the unappreciative family. As severe drought conditions threaten the survival of Sosi's family, her parents and siblings become increasingly short-tempered. Hurt and resentful, Sosi creates a mud family from bits of wet mud, endowing the toy people with the tenderness and compassion her real family seems to lack: ``You are my lark, my lizard,'' says the mud father to his daughter. ``I will weave robes for you and never scold.'' When Sosi's parents exclude her from the rain dance, she holds a private ceremony with her mud girl. Her efforts bring about the much-needed downpour-and with it some much-needed attention from her family. ``You are my dove, my dragonfly,'' her father apologizes. ``You are Sosi, who brings rain to my heart.'' James's first-person narration conveys Sosi's conflicted feelings in simple, effective prose, unadorned by melodrama. Morin's (Orphan Boy) finely textured paintings have a 3-D quality-swatches of fabric and layers of color stand out from the sandy-toned background, and the clay dolls are particularly striking. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)