cover image BEAUTY, HER BASKET


Sandra Belton, , illus. by Cozbi A. Cabrera. . Greenwillow/Amistad, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-688-17821-5

Spending her summer with her Nana, a member of the Sea Islands' Gullah community, a girl learns how the tradition of weaving baskets from seagrass represents her ancestors' indomitable spirit in the face of slavery. "So much ugly in the slave times," Nana tells her grandchildren, explaining the name of the eponymous basket. "Much too much ugly. But the basket like the flower—always a child of beauty. No matter what." The text is leisurely paced and lengthy, with much of Nana's dialogue written in a lilting Gullah dialect (the narrator speaks standard English). But the book's rewards are well worth the close attention the writing demands. Belton (From Miss Ida's Porch ) has a lovely way with a phrase: Nana "makes her hand dance," when she wants to beckon the narrator's less-than-beloved cousin, also a summer visitor; as the girl struggles to craft one of the pedestal-like baskets, she notices that "every time I lean close to pull the grass tight, I can smell the sea on my hands." Cabrera follows suit with naïf acrylic pictures that immerse readers in the locale's earthy exoticism. The illustrations make all of the elements of the story—from the moist, salty coastal air to Nana's enveloping embraces—feel magical and almost palpable. A quiet treasure. Ages 5-up. (Jan.)