cover image Tambourine Moon

Tambourine Moon

Joy Jones. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-80648-3

Light emanates gracefully from Widener's (Lou Gehrig: The Luckiest Man) pleasing, stylized acrylic paintings, which inventively capture the dual settings of Jones's (Between Black Women) folksy tale and give dimension to its abundant, occasionally heavy-handed imagery. The narrative moves, a little choppily at first, between a shadow-filled city street, where Noni and her grandfather take a nighttime walk, and the Alabama countryside, where her grandfather grew up. Gazing at the moon, Grandaddy says it reminds him of ""down home."" Noni knows a story is coming, and one does. Lost on a dark night, Grandaddy--then a young man--passes by a church and hears the choir rehearsing. At first the singers ""sound like rocks hitting a rusty can,"" but then a soloist's voice rings out, ""low and deep, and full, just like a brook in the Alabama woods."" Captivated, he waits to meet the soloist, and straightaway knows she is the woman he will marry. After he walks her home, her tambourine jumps out of his hands and settles in the sky, ""glowing and pouring light all over the night like butter running down the sides of a hot biscuit."" For youngsters frightened of the dark, the book sheds some comforting light, but the densely metaphorical prose may make it hard to appreciate the image of the ""tambourine moon"" at this book's center. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)