cover image Bonjour, Lonnie

Bonjour, Lonnie

Faith Ringgold. Hyperion Books, $6.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-0076-6

In this fantastical, sweeping picture book, Ringgold reintroduces a character from Dinner at Aunt Connie's in order to chronicle some pivotal moments in African American history. Shown here in an earlier phase, Lonnie is living in a Paris orphanage. He is visited one night by a magical Love Bird who inspires him to ""look everywhere"" for his loved ones. On his surreal search, Lonnie combs the streets and sights of Paris, even speaking to the Mona Lisa inside the Louvre. The journey changes course when Lonnie encounters the spirits of his deceased grandparents and parents. They explain both Lonnie's mixed racial heritage and, more broadly, black Americans' contributions to the arts (e.g., the Harlem Renaissance) and to the Allies' victories in the two World Wars. With an emphasis on acceptance and love, Ringgold's text illustrates that families can come in all kinds of configurations. In her dense acrylic paintings, Ringgold refrains from literalism, effectively depicting such difficult subject matter as violence and even death with slightly abstract perspectives. This meaty volume invites repeated examination and will hold special appeal for African Americans and children in adoptive and/or mixed-race families. As a bonus, French phrases and their English translations are sprinkled throughout, and a short glossary of historical figures and movements appears at the end. Ages 5-9. (Sept.)