cover image HOMEMADE LOVE


bell hooks, , illus. by Shane W. Evans. . Hyperion/Jump at the Sun, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-0643-0

"My mama calls me girlpie," begins this tender riff on the ties that bind. "Daddy's honey bun chocolate dew drop." When the winsome girl at the story's center breaks a dish ("Everything I do cannot be right. 'Cause there is no all the time right"), her parents are quick to forgive her. Here, the tale makes an abrupt transition, and girlpie is in bed. The book ends with her drifting off to sleep, embraced by the warmth of her family's love ("No need to fear the dark place. 'Cause everywhere is home"). Despite some tender scenes and the exuberance of emotion with which hooks (Be Boy Buzz) invests her poetic prose, the picture book doesn't quite add up to the sum of its parts. Evans' (Osceola: Memories of a Sharecropper's Daughter) illustrations go a long way toward making the moments hang together. Her cheerful, splashy paintings display an abundance of affection between the girl and her parents ("Kiss Kiss" accompanies a girlpie sandwich, the parents' faces flanking their daughter's exuberant face) and, immediately after, Evans conveys the rush of relief at having been forgiven ("Let life go on") with the heroine turning cartwheels in a field of flowers. But it may be difficult for readers to determine a theme: Is it a story about forgiveness? About overcoming fear of the dark? Perhaps the overall message of comfort and safety is enough to carry youngsters along in this upbeat hodgepodge of feel-good phrases and images. Ages 4-8. (Dec.)