cover image Radiance Descending

Radiance Descending

Paula Fox, DK Publishing. DK Publishing (Dorling Kindersley), $14.95 (112pp) ISBN 978-0-7894-2467-9

Newbery Medal winner Fox tells a perceptive, sensitive story about pre-teenager Paul Coleman, who is idolized by his Down's syndrome brother, Jacob. The novel opens just before Jacob's seventh birthday, as Paul leaves for school with his back to his younger brother and closes with a glimmer of Paul's acceptance. Carefully crafted flashbacks expose Paul's isolation since Jacob's arrival. Paul dreads moving from New York City to Long Island, where he will see his beloved Grandpa less; and at the mere thought of leaving his friends, ""his heart gripped inside his chest."" All Paul wants to do is forget the babyish jabber and ""gross"" table manners of his brother who ""wasn't made right."" But then Dad asks Paul to give up Saturday mornings to chaperone Jacob downtown for his allergy shots. Pushing Jacob too fast, Paul falls from his place of idolatry. Then he reluctantly enters Jacob's slower-paced world and discovers a whole community of Jacob's loyal friends. Paul begins to see he's not alone in his struggle to integrate Jacob into his life: ""Jacob has been a test for Mom and me. One day we fail. The next day we get a B,"" Dad says; Grandpa talks quietly about love and pity, and a lonely picture of Jacob in the family photo album speaks volumes. Older readers will find many layers of meaning in this novel. Younger readers may be put off by a few esoteric allusions (to the film La Strada, for instance) but will still be able to recognize the gradual blossoming of Paul's compassion. Ages 10-12. (Oct.)