cover image Dreamsong


Alice McLerran. Tambourine Books, $14 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-688-10105-3

This sweet if somewhat insubstantial work by the author of Roxaboxen and The Mountain That Loved a Bird centers around a boy named Pavel who is haunted by a song he hears only in his dreams. With his parents' warning that he must be home by sundown, he sets out to find the melody's source. As he travels over field and meadow, he hears fragments of words and music in the countryside around him and gradually pieces the verses together in sequence. Still seeking the source, the boy is drawn back to his own house, where we hear the complete song--the lullaby his mother sings him as he drops off to sleep each night. Although McLerran's text unfolds with the pleasing, resonant language of a pastoral tale of old, her premise seems too slender to support a whole book. The fairy-tale device of Pavel's mandate to return in a single day is never exploited to full effect, while the boy himself is emblematic rather than a fleshed-out hero. Vasiliev's sun-dappled illustrations, however, radiate Old-World conviviality. His paintings have a unique cast that suggests the faux naive style of some European pottery designs. Singular artistry that compensates for narrative shortcomings. Ages 5-up. (Oct.)