cover image The Longest Wait

The Longest Wait

Marie Bradby, Marie Braby. Orchard Books (NY), $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-531-06871-7

A snowstorm in a time of wooden sleds and horse-drawn wagons is the setting for this picture-book slice of life. Although Thomas's mother warns that ""a man's not fit"" for ""strong wind and deep snow,"" not even the driving blizzard outside their door keeps Thomas's mailman father from his charge. Catalanotto's (Letter to the Lake) full-spread watercolors not only portray the family's anxiety as they wait for the father's return, but in dreamlike line drawings behind or beside the contemporaneous action, he suggests both past and future events. The illustrations convey, for instance, the fun Thomas imagines he will have in the snow when Daddy comes home; then later, as Thomas listens to his feverish father's account of the day, the artist portrays the hardships the father suffered in the blinding snow. The paintings supply the emotional moods absent from the text. While Bradby's (More Than Anything Else) first-person narration through Thomas's eyes is sprinkled with poetic images (e.g., ""a sea of snow rolled and sprayed the air thick with white sparkles""; Daniel sits in a rocking chair ""rocking the time away""), readers rarely witness the protagonist's reactions. His father recounts a catastrophic day that puts his health at risk, but only Catalanotto's portraits convey the boy's responses. Ages 4-7. (Sept.)