Deborah Hopkinson, , illus. by Bethanne Andersen. . HarperCollins/ Greenwillow, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-688-17398-2

In this affecting collaboration, Hopkinson (Fannie in the Kitchen, reviewed above) and Anderson (Seven Brave Women) use the renewal of nature to echo the cycle of life after two children lose their grandmother. Narrator Mags and her younger brother, Cody, have spent each summer on their grandparents' farm, where bluebirds always graced the fence bordering Grandma's garden. But after Grandma's death, Gramps sold off his wheat fields, and new houses have replaced the trees in which the birds used to nest and weeds have overtaken the garden. Mags and Cody, each in their own way, begin their efforts to coax the bluebirds back. And when their grandfather realizes their plan, "It was one of those moments that gathers everything into it. It gathered the birdhouse and the garden. It gathered us and our love for Grandma and all our summer days and nights together." Hopkinson's prose expresses the tightly knit love of the family without going over the top, and she wisely avoids a contrived conclusion. Readers do not witness the return of the birds, but Mags leaves them with a convincing note of optimism that the flock will reappear the following spring. Against a wheat-colored backdrop, Andersen's wispy, light-filled gouache and oil paintings effectively capture the tale's considerable emotion and hope. An inspiring story about coping with loss and honoring personal legacies. Ages 6-up. (Apr.)