cover image Grandma Essie's Covered Wagon

Grandma Essie's Covered Wagon

David Williams. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $16 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-679-80253-2

In this superb oral history, folksinger Williams ( Walking to the Creek ) gathers together the ``prairie stories'' told to him in 1988 by his Grandmother Essie, then 87. Recalling her family's travels in a covered wagon through Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri, Essie describes the prairies that ``rolled on forever, like the back of some huge animal that might get up and run.'' Her narrative is filled with memorable details and episodes: the distinctions drawn between the ``barefoot kids'' at the back of the one-room schoolhouse and ``the rich kids and their shoes'' up front; the death of Essie's sister Stella; the time when ``Papa broke up the old covered wagon and sawed it to pieces,'' making from the wood the ``porch swing like the one we're sitting on.'' Williams tells Essie's story ``in mostly her words,'' which are colored with homely, apt images. Sadowski, a Pole making his American debut, contributes meticulous oil paintings that seem to combine the styles of Thomas Allen and Barbara Cooney. His quiet illustrations lend a spare grace to Williams's nostalgic paean to the sturdy Midwestern pioneers who ``dreamed of something more.'' Ages 5-up. (Sept.)