cover image Lucy's Winter Tale

Lucy's Winter Tale

Amy Ehrlich. Dial Books, $14 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-0659-0

A discordant mix of the romantic and the real, this picture book pivots on the painless abduction of its farm girl heroine. Framed by the narrator's claim that the story is true, it devolves in an indeterminate past, when Lucy, ``the old woman who told me these things,'' is still a girl. Lucy, like the protagonist of the Narnia stories and similar fantasies, eagerly embarks on a journey, in this case occasioned by the appearance of Ivan, a flute-playing juggler who tells her, ``You're the one I'm looking for,'' and incorporates her into his traveling circus. Clad in a red dress, Lucy, who ``sings like an angel,'' performs with the other members of the troupe--a bear, a chimpanzee and a tight-rope walker named Martina. Only Martina recognizes that Ivan and Lucy have done anything wrong, and when she points this out, Ivan returns Lucy to her family (the much-anticipated consequences of her disappearance, however, go unremarked). Lucy is left with the red dress, which the narrator is shown as evidence of Lucy's adventure; the reader is left to wonder what Ehrlich's point might be. Howell's acrylic and pencil drawings, in the style of 19th-century illustrations, idealize their subjects and reinforce the story's artificially nostalgic undertone. Ages 5-up. (Sept.)