cover image River: 2a Song

River: 2a Song

Bill Staines. Viking Children's Books, $13.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-670-85353-3

A nostalgic, '60s feel colors this illustrated version of Staines's song about the metaphorical river of life, ``ever moving and winding and free.'' Like many lyrics presented independently of their music, these lose much of their rhythm and depth here. The narrator, serenading the ``changing old river,'' tells of being ``born in the path of the winter wind / and raised where the mountains are old.'' Spohn's impressionistic paintings, with their thick brush strokes and almost primitive human figures, particularize the story, depicting a woman artist who feels ``the music within her rise / like the wind in the autumn trees'' and who, having had a good life, offers a toast: ``Here's to the rainbow that followed me here'' and ``to the song that's within me now.'' In keeping with the haziness of the memories that suffuse the text, Spohn's art is muted, emptied of the momentum of her paintings for Hide and Seek in the Yellow House and of the precision of the colored-pencil drawings for Ruth's Bake Shop . The backward glance adopted in this volume, however, will probably appeal more to adults than to children. All ages. (Mar.)