cover image The Summer of Stanley

The Summer of Stanley

Natalie Kinsey-Warnock. Dutton Books, $14.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-525-65177-2

A troublesome goat, a gift to the narrator on her ninth birthday, redeems himself when he saves the life of her similarly trying younger brother. Kinsey-Warnock's (The Canada Geese Quilt) straightforward text conveys a typically sticky sibling relationship with economy. The plot elements--a ceaselessly munching goat, a blowsy neighbor in a flowered dress and a watery rescue--hold no surprises, however, and the narrative switches abruptly from speculation that the goat has broken his leg to a happy ending, the goat's leg forgotten. In Gates's (Hoggle's Christmas) elaborately precise illustrations, scraps of light glint everywhere, creating an unusual effervescence: the heightened color and dappled sun of the outdoor scenes are lush, and pencil lines evoke each strand of hair and streak of wood grain. Despite such dexterity, the artwork lacks immediacy. The characters look contemplative even when they are supposed to be panicking, and the careful, literal style doesn't communicate the mischievous quality of either goat or boy. Although the story is set in 1945, this circumstance seems incidental to both narrative and artwork. Ages 4-8. (May)