cover image A Sign

A Sign

George Ella Lyon, Chris K. Soentpiet. Orchard Books (NY), $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-531-30073-2

Lyon's (Dream Place) lyrical, autobiographical poem and Soentpiet's (Peacebound Trains) glowing paintings unfold quietly, articulating with deft simplicity the complex relationship between an artist's childhood dreams and adult achievements. Using three extended metaphors, Lyon tells of her childhood ambitions--first, to be a maker of neon signs like her neighbor, ""each letter buzzing, beautiful,"" then to be a tight-rope walker who can ""work the silver line./ So high/ so strong/ each step/ her life/ in the balance,"" and finally to be an astronaut who blasts off ""writing a road to the stars."" Though the choice of the cover painting is a bit uninspired, Soentpiet's interior watercolors are splendid recreations of small town scenes in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as dazzling circus lights and the black-and-white view via a television screen of Alan Shepherd's launch into space. The book initially appears to be simply a nostalgic look back, until Lyons expands on her three childhood aspirations and, with great simplicity, shows readers how elements of each have influenced her as a writer. Both Soentpiet's shimmering depiction of flickering stars in the vast rosy darkness and Lyon's musical poem glow with beauty and a hopeful message for readers that dreams really can come true. Ages 5-9. (Mar.)