cover image Pockets


Jennifer Armstrong. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $17 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-517-70926-9

In this text-laden tale, a seamstress, ""a slim schooner of a woman, driven by strong winds and a broken heart,"" lands at the edge of a prairie town where the villagers have no use for her finery. She sheds her travel-worn courtly clothes for a gray dress ""as wan and lifeless as a November pond"" and begins to mend the townspeople's simple vestments. The woman ornaments the drab clothes she sews by embroidering the pockets with scenes of far-off lands. Soon the villagers stop their toiling to pick flowers, dream and raise colorful flags from the rooftops; the seamstress's work apparently completed, she ""[turns] her compass toward her old home, and cast[s] off."" The nautical metaphor for the landlocked setting quickly wears thin, and the language seems at odds with the characters (""We are plain and simple folk, and wear only the plainest, simplest habiliments,"" say the townsfolk). The team behind Chin Yu Min and the Ginger Cat transform the bland prairie town into a kind of festive medieval walled city, but many questions are left unanswered. Readers may well wonder why the brokenhearted seamstress initially came to the town, and why she would return to the source of her pain. GrandPre's artwork, on the other hand, delicately balances the sullen tones of the town with the brilliant colors of the villagers' visions; she festoons the images of exotic times and places with the detailed stitchery of the pocket embroidery that inspired them. All ages. (Oct.)