cover image MISSISSIPPI


Diane Siebert, , illus. by Greg Harlin. . HarperCollins, $16.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-688-16445-4

Breathtaking illustrations by debut artist Harlin are the main attraction here. As in her Sierra and Mojave, Siebert offers a poetic evocation of one of America's natural wonders. "I am the river,/ Deep and strong,/ I sing an old, enduring song/ With rhythms wild and rhythms tame,/ And Mississippi is my name." The poem initially traces the river historically from the clear "melting glacial waters" to the muddy water that now "hides/ The garbage, sludge, and pesticides/ That kill… fish and fowl to find/ Their lethal way back to mankind." The last half of the book traces the river's path from Lake Itasca "in the north" to the Gulf of Mexico. The cadences of the poem mimic the wide river's flow, yet the messages grow cumbersome: "What followed was a nation's quest/ To grow, expand, and 'tame' the West." The paintings, on the other hand, seem both lifelike and transcendent. The river shimmers with light, workers lean wearily against sandbags blocking the cresting river, a white heron is reflected in the waters of a southern bayou. Classroom teachers leading a study of the mighty river will like this book—as will travelers who frequent souvenir shops along the Mississippi's banks. All ages. (May)