cover image FAMILY REUNION


Mary Quattlebaum, , illus. by Andrea Shine. . Eerdmans, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8028-5237-3

Through 15 poems in an array of formats (sonnet, haiku, free verse), Quattlebaum (The Shine Man ) chronicles a family gathering at the beach. The speaker, Jodie, is pictured as a child, but her sensibility seems more akin to that of a self-conscious adolescent—she is by turns wistful, melancholic and preoccupied with her dawning ability to ponder life's bigger meanings. Squeezing herself into a porch rocker meant for a much smaller person, Jodie thinks, "This chair has rocked since 1884./ Rocked from child to child,/ through children, grandchildren, more and more./ Two years ago it fit just right./ Rock-rock, rock-rock ." She spots cousin Hank sitting on a piece of driftwood in a moment of sad reverie and knowingly observes that the boy's long-absent father is "a voice on the phone now./ He's a voice once a week/ saying, 'How's the big guy?' " Shine's (Loon Summer ) illustrations, watercolors with paper collage, underscore the poems' oddly muted mood. A delicate luminosity radiates from her spreads, and she capably conveys the ever-changing nature of water and light at the shoreline. But there's a curious emotional stillness to her renderings, even when the family assembles for a gathering as pleasant as a pancake breakfast. Children who have experienced the happy-go-lucky chaos of a real family reunion may wonder where all the action is. All ages. (Feb.)