cover image A Green Horn Blowing

A Green Horn Blowing

David F. Birchman. HarperCollins, $15 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-688-12388-8

The sweet sounds of trumpet music and a unique friendship brighten a boy's days in this earnest Depression-era tale. Aunt Frita manages to feed and give odd jobs to many of the hard-luck men who come upon her berry farm. One hired hand, John Cleveland Potts, becomes both friend and inspiration to Aunt Frita's young nephew, the unnamed narrator. Mr. Potts impresses him with his trumpet playing and begins to share his music-making secrets when the two discover a trombolia, a trumpet-shaped squash, that the boy adopts as his own horn. Though it takes patience and practice, he learns to coax true sound from the strange-looking vegetable. Eventually the squash begins to rot, and he must cope with his loss and abandon his instrument. Soon Mr. Potts exits the boy's life too, but not without leaving behind a precious gift. Birchbaum's (Jigsaw Jackson) first-person narrative combines elements of magic, sentiment and the drama of everyday life to create a moving, never maudlin story. Allen's (In Coal Country) pastel and colored-pencil artwork has a dusty scrapbook feel. Doe-eyed characters amidst airy scenes of grassy fields and wide expanses of sky, or shadowy barn interiors and small-town storefronts provide a solid sense of time and place. Ages 5-up. (Sept.)