Leslie Connor, , illus. by Mary Azarian. . Houghton, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-618-30564-3

"She could have picked a chiming clock or a porcelain figurine, but Miss Bridie chose a shovel back in 1856," opens Connor's beguiling first children's book, which uses the single detail of the shovel to illuminate the whole of an immigrant's lifetime of pluck, struggle and grace. As Caldecott Medalist Azarian's (Snowflake Bentley ) trademark woodcuts evoke a homespun beauty from her period settings, Connor describes Miss Bridie leaning on the shovel as she rocks in her cabin, crossing the Atlantic on a ship bound for New York; digging out a little garden behind the shop where she works and selling the plants she grows; and scraping the snow from the river in the city park, so she can skate—and, in the process, meets the man she will marry. Miss Bridie and her husband move to the country, run a farm and have children, and while their fortunes do not always run smoothly, Miss Bridie's self-reliance only grows stronger. When lightning strikes and fire destroys the barn, Miss Bridie searches through the ashes to find her shovel blade (an illustration to the left of one spread shows the couple stooping amid the smoldering rubble), then fashions a new handle (in the facing illustration, Miss Bridie works resolutely with her tools, the frame of a barn in clear view out her window). The well-turned, lilting narrative and beautifully matched artwork offer a stirring portrait of a woman of inspiring resourcefulness; the pronounced vertical format subtly emphasizes the heroine's ability to stand tall. Ages 4-8. (May)