cover image The Promise

The Promise

Nicola Davies, illus. by Laura Carlin. Candlewick, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6633-0

A message of hope infuses Davies's story, which opens with a child whose urban home mirrors her bleak internal life. "I lived by stealing from those who had almost as little as I did," she explains, seen pickpocketing from a woman's coat. "My heart was as shriveled as the dead trees in the park." When the girl steals an elderly woman's purse, she discovers that it contains only acorns; the woman's request that the girl promise to "plant them" immediately (and somewhat unrealistically) washes away her more immediate needs and concerns: "I forgot the food and money. And for the first time in my life, I felt lucky, rich beyond my wildest dreams." In her first picture book, Carlin creates a chalky, ashy landscape, which she gradually peppers with specks of color as the girl plants the acorns: "I pushed aside the mean and hard and ugly, and I planted, planted, planted." A chance encounter with another thief perpetuates the cycle of redemption and goodwill. Davies's parable-like narrative leaves a quietly powerful impression while avoiding preaching. Ages 5%E2%80%939. (Mar.)