cover image Angels on a Pin

Angels on a Pin

Barbara Helen Berger. Philomel Books, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-399-23247-3

Berger (Grandfather Twilight) offers a pretty but vacuous riff on the originally satirical question ""How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?"" by positing dreamy worlds within worlds of tiny, pin-dwelling angels. Her story opens with the question, ""What if there was a city on a pin?""; the accompanying art shows a small-town street, with people and pets--all of them with wings, apparently angels. In the foreground, an elderly woman angel sees a pincushion in a dressmaker's window. The next pages home in on the pincushion, where the head of each pin is the site of a whole city of tiny angels. The plot is thin to the point of brittle: the angels on the pin-city think theirs is the only one in the world, then a child using a telescope spies another city on a pin, contact is made and a celebration begins. Berger's mixed-media paintings create a light and lively atmosphere where angels of all ages and nationalities boogie-woogie (""Shimmy shimmy hip hop, and cha-cha-cha"") in mid-air, rejoicing, ""Hey wow, look! We're not alone!"" The framing story reprises this theme, returning to illustrations of the elderly woman, now joined by a dapper old gent in a top hat--and, suggesting the circularity of the premise, a child can be seen gazing through a telescope. Given that Berger makes no particular use of the angel motif (these could just as well be miniature people), the net effect is that of an extended daydream. Ages 4-8. (Feb.)