cover image Going West

Going West

Jean Van Leeuwen. Dial Books, $17.99 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1027-6

``One day in early spring we packed everything we had into our wagon, tied our milk cow Sadie on behind, and set out to find a new home. Going West.'' Narrated by seven-year-old Hannah, so begins this haunting evocation of times past. Although Van Leeuwen sets forth a representative pioneer tale, her story of one indomitable family is rich with particulars--the hailstorm that ruins the first vegetable crop, the wildflowers that bloom ``in mounds of pink and lavender and blue, like soft pillows,'' the neighbor who brings to Hannah's cabin his flute and eventually his new wife. Into a gentle text brimming with family warmth and love, Van Leeuwen ( Dear Mom, You're Ruining My Life ; the Oliver and Amanda Pig series) packs a wealth of emotional moments--as when Mama lies down in the tall prairie grass and sighs, ``Oh my, this is a lonesome land.'' Allen's ( In Coal Country ) scumbled, subdued pastel drawings, on sepia stock, masterfully conjure up the expanse of land and feelings. Like pages torn from a frontier journal, stirring sketches and lyrical text form a moving tribute to the brave families to whom the book is dedicated. Ages 5-9. (Mar.)