cover image The Heavenly Village

The Heavenly Village

Cynthia Rylant. Scholastic, $15.95 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-439-04096-9

Adopting a silky prose style, Rylant (Give Me Grace, reviewed above) imagines a stopping place between heaven and earth, a village where those who ""have taken one step into heaven and hesitated"" can stay and ""finish their stories."" Each chapter opens with a quotation from the American Standard Bible, then introduces a different inhabitant of the Heavenly Village. Only one of Rylant's villagers is there for conventional repentance and forgiveness; missed opportunities are of far greater concern to the other ""reluctant spirits."" Rylant's pristine language and deeply comforting vision are her strong suits: ""A young man will do a terrible thing, and the whole world will hate him and call him evil. But his father and mother will look at him and say, `I love you.' People on earth forget that God is father and mother. So when [an evil-doer] dies, many people think he will go to hell. But he doesn't. He goes home."" Some adults, however, may be bothered by Rylant's casual theology. One character has had a miserable childhood: ""This is something God has little control over.... God could not make Violet Rose's parents loving people."" Later, God ""is not all that troubled"" when a child and his dog die, because their suffering is over quickly. But those who don't mind spirituality delivered warm and fuzzy will find this as satisfying and sweet as a cup of cocoa; it will leave readers feeling good. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)