cover image In America

In America

Marissa Moss. Dutton Books, $14.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-525-45152-5

Looking at an album of photos taken when his grandfather was a child in Lithuania, Walter asks why the elderly man came to America. ``I wanted to have the same freedom as everyone else, without anybody bothering me,'' responds Grandpa, who explains that, as his family was Jewish, ``we were bothered a lot, because people thought we were different.'' As the two walk to the post office, Grandpa tells how he made the long sea journey to America alone at the age of 10. Pondering whether he would be brave enough to make such a trip, Walter asserts himself by insisting that he cross a busy street by himself (after the light changes). Though a small step, this feat gives the boy a sense of accomplishment, and enables Moss to tuck yet another worthwhile message into her resonant tale. Her art alternates between rather routine depictions of the walk to the post office and arresting, softly colored simulated photographs of life in a Lithuania of the past. Laced with engaging anecdotes (Grandpa tells Walter that the first time he had a banana--a food unknown in the old country--he ate the peel and threw away the fruit inside), this story has a quiet power. Ages 4-8. (May)