cover image Grandmother's Pigeon

Grandmother's Pigeon

Louise Erdrich, Jim LaMarche. Hyperion Books, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-0165-7

As in her fiction for adults (Love Medicine), Erdrich makes every word count in her bewitching debut children's story. Similarly, there is not a wasted stroke in LaMarche's (The Rainbabies; Carousel) evocative acrylic and colored-pencil art, which brings the characters' expressive faces and likable personalities into sharp focus. Because Grandmother had trained kicking mules and skied the Continental Divide, her two grandchildren have come to expect the unexpected. Even so, the adventurous woman surprises them and their parents when, parasol in hand, she sails away on the back of a porpoise, announcing, ""I've always wanted to see Greenland!"" Reluctantly cleaning out her room one year later, the subdued family discovers something mysterious among Grandmother's many treasures: a twig nest containing three eggs that hatch into birds of an extinct species. Erdrich's articulate, wide-eyed narrator, the missing woman's granddaughter, conveys a contagious sense of wonder and serenely invokes some breathtaking imagery; describing Grandmother's bird nest collection, she notes, ""I liked the hummingbird's, no bigger than my little fingernail, created with stolen spiderwebs."" Impeccably paired, text and art gracefully build to a conclusion that both reassures and startles. Magical from beginning to end. Ages 5-9. (Apr.)