cover image Lullaby Raft

Lullaby Raft

Naomi Shihab Nye. Simon & Schuster, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-80521-9

This uneven picture book, essentially a bedtime poem, begins in a child's cozy room at night and ends with a child's dream journey on a moon rowboat. The text is based on a lullaby Nye (Sitti's Secrets) sings in schools (the music appears on the book's final page). Although filled with lovely phrases (""My lizard licks the darkness clean/ In the leaves outside my room""), the text often ends abruptly on the page, perhaps to accommodate the musical line of the song. Words and art unite most effectively when focusing on the details, as in: ""My mama sings me a lullaby all my own/ And I dream of her hands/ And the years I'll live alone."" Flesher (East of the Sun, West of the Moon) accompanies these lines with a close-up of the child's face held gently in her mother's hands, set against a deep velvet-red curtain of color rendered in pastels. An ambitious sense of composition creates emotional depth. The artist's work exudes a sense of stillness and reverie, of gently ebbing consciousness. Things get a bit confusing, however, as the book makes a textual and visual transition from the concrete to the metaphysical. As the book moves toward its conclusion, Nye turns from the child's thoughts to an adult's point of view, and the child, who appears to be a toddler in the opening spread, now looks 10 years old. Even with its moments of verbal and pictorial harmony, this lullaby ultimately ends on a dissonant note. All ages. (Sept.)