cover image The Aunt in Our House

The Aunt in Our House

Angela Johnson. Orchard Books (NY), $15.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-531-09502-7

Johnson's (Julius; Toning the Sweep) cryptic tale suggests questions, then leaves it wholly to the reader to answer them. Told by the older of two siblings who live with their white father and African American mother, the story opens on an affectionate note: ""The sun shines brighter through the front window in our house since The Aunt came. It makes us warmer in winter."" The child tells how The Aunt helps Mama weave blankets and rugs, lets the youngsters play her trumpet and encourages them to splash in puddles barefoot. Yet this apparently sunny woman spends some days gazing silently out the window, which brings the nebulous comment from Mama that The Aunt misses her home. Intentionally vague, the text leaves readers wondering why and for how long the Aunt has come to stay, and why she is occasionally so sad. Well-matched to the expressiveness of the narrative, Soman's (illustrator of Johnson's The Leaving Morning, see p.106) watercolor and pastel illustrations appear to move in and out of focus, depending on the mood of the moment, and effectively convey the characters' changeable emotions. Ages 5-8. (Mar.)