cover image Letter to the Lake

Letter to the Lake

Susan Marie Swanson. DK Publishing (Dorling Kindersley), $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7894-2483-9

Despite Catalanotto's (Dylan's Day Out) exquisite paintings, this exploration of a child's winter memories of her summer at the lake seems too self-consciously contrived to be compelling. ""Dear Lake,"" writes Rosie, ""When I think of you, I think of rocks hiding under the waves, like secrets. Remember me, your friend Rosie?"" Catalanotto intersperses visibly frigid black-and-white illustrations of Rosie and her mother in winter with full-color paintings of Rosie's memories of warm days at the lake. Occasionally, the two worlds overlap in the girl's imagination: a black-and-white painting of the kitchen table shows a glimpse of Rosie's face in the reflection of the toaster, alongside a tray that contains just a hint of the lake's blue and purple landscape. Rosie's random reminiscences are sometimes poetic (""Our windows rattle, trying to get warm"" or ""I want to row all the way to summer, where you float the water lilies,..."") and other times less involving (""I'm having toast for breakfast, with lots of raspberry jam. The kitchen window is covered over with frost. I keep some rocks from last summer on the windowsill""), but Swanson's (Getting Used to the Dark) epistolary style sounds too adult in tone to be convincing. On the other hand, the inventive perspectives and splashes of color in Catalanotto's impressionistic watercolors visually capture the complicated relationship between one's memory and experience. Ages 4-7. (Apr.)