cover image I Meant to Tell You

I Meant to Tell You

James Stevenson. Greenwillow Books, $15 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-688-14177-6

Allegedly the last of Stevenson's (When I Was Nine; Don't You Know There's a War On?) autobiographical picture books, this is perhaps his most intimate and nostalgic, and, as such, may be primarily of interest to his adult fans. The second-person narrative, addressed to a grown-up daughter, is a free-flowing stream of memories of ""your"" childhood: walking on the beach during a warm rain, driving home with a newly acquired puppy in a shoebox, pretending that a piece of birchbark held a letter from the Indians, picking tomatoes in the garden and selecting the perfect pumpkin on Halloween. Like the text, Stevenson's inimitable, small-scale watercolor art is minimalist yet expressive. The simplest strokes create fuzzy, pastel images that reinforce the affection in his words. Kids, however, may need more of a story line and may be less vulnerable than their parents to the wistful, touching tones of the conclusion: ""It was a while ago.... But I remember you when you were small and all the things we did together. I meant to tell you that."" Ages 5-up. (Apr.)