cover image Before the Wildflowers Bloom

Before the Wildflowers Bloom

Crown, Tatyana Bylinsky. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $12.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-517-57052-4

Carmela is the eight-year-old narrator of this brief novel about her family of Italian immigrants who live in a Colorado mining camp in 1916. Her father hopes to save enough money to buy a farm, but in the meantime he works in the mines. When an explosion takes his life, and those of other miners, Carmela's mother accompanies the other widows to a funeral. It's only when Carmela's grandfather shows up to take the family to his ranch that the children in the story begin to hope again. The short, terse chapters are both this novel's strength (it will appeal to those who have progressed to beginning chapter books) and its weakness (some of the chapters are so terse as to be oblique or even abrupt for struggling readers). But Bylinsky's voice is inviting, and she creates a world in which there is a feeling of hominess in the shabbiest detail. Ages 8-up. (Feb.)