cover image Angel Coming

Angel Coming

Heather Henson, , ILLUS. BY SUSAN GABER. . S&S/ Atheneum, $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-85531-3

S et in the Kentucky mountains and narrated in unrhymed, lilting verse through the eyes of a child, Henson's (Making the Run ) moving story captures a community's eager anticipation of a new baby. Gaber (When Winter Comes ) suggests the union of humans with nature as her opening full-bleed spreads begin with the Appalachian landscape and zero in on a circling owl and its eye-view of the girl narrator's home. The girl believes an angel on horseback will bring "a tiny babe tucked in her saddlebag,/ a tiny babe tucked safe and warm" (an author's note explains the origins of the legend). Meanwhile, they prepare for the infant's arrival: "Pap brings down the cradle/ carved out smooth from cherry wood,/ whittled pretty with vines and roses,/ made for me when I was new." Gentle dialect conjures age-old traditions, such as "the aunties" gathering to stitch a quilt: "All day long they sit and chin-wag./ All day long they make it grow." In the impressionistic acrylics, children run barefoot and the small house is spare, but abundant riches derive from the warm, close-knit neighbors who work and dance together. The girl celebrates her lush surroundings: in one exhilarating image, the owl swoops below her as she stands on the mountaintop, arms stretched wide: "Higher still I'm queen and ruler—/ I'm higher than the sky does sit." Returning from her walk, the girl meets the angel, along with a new baby brother. This beautifully told tale demonstrates the way a new baby's arrival causes ripples throughout the land. Ages 3-6. (June)