cover image Cecil's Story

Cecil's Story

George Ella Lyon. Orchard Books (NY), $15.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-531-05912-8

History buffs will welcome this unusual and timely picture book about a boy during the Civil War. Cecil's is not a single story, but a succession of pretended situations. ``What if,'' Cecil wonders, his father ``went off to war'' and his mother had to follow him? The reader is asked to imagine Cecil in a variety of possible futures, making the complex time-sequence of the narrative confusing. Catalanotto's richly textured, evocative paintings ameliorate but do not entirely explain the convoluted historical perspective of the text. For example, a series of pictures depicting the hatching of an egg decorates a spread in which Cecil sits by a fence, waiting ``for weeks''; in another, Cecil is shown as he plows in eight varying poses to simulate the passage of time. Although the tender relationships between characters and the warm assurance of the ending are laudable, Cecil's imaginary stories about the war are difficult to follow--as when the boy is pictured being reunited with his mother on the verso page, and being comforted about her absence on the right. Ages 5-7. (Mar.)