cover image Half a World Away

Half a World Away

Libby Gleeson. Arthur A. Levine Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-439-88977-3

Gleeson's (The Great Bear) somber story of separated best friends builds up to a Jane Eyre moment. Louie and Amy have a special call for each other-""Coo-ee, Lou-ee"" and ""Coo-ee, Am-ee""-even when one is just across the room. Then Amy and her family move from their tidy English town to a metropolis on ""the other side of the world,"" leaving both children bereft. ""When you are awake in the day, she is asleep at night,"" Louie's mother points out unhelpfully, but fortunately the boy's grandmother is more emotionally astute. She encourages him to let loose ""the loudest call anyone could ever, ever do."" And, shades of Mr. Rochester calling across the miles for Jane, Amy wakes up in her time zone and realizes that ""I dreamt about Louie and he called me."" ""Half a world away,"" the tale concludes, ""Louie slept, smiling in his dream."" An elegant melancholy hangs over Blackwood's (Two Summers) muted watercolors; she conveys the children's sadness without portraying them as desperate, and her bird's-eye and panoramic scenes vividly drive home the awful distance that has come between the pair. But at times the text feels precious, and the dramatic premise, however well intentioned, may miss its mark with 21st-century readers, who will likely ask why the friends don't just e-mail one another. Ages 4-8.