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Gloria Jean Pinkney. Dial Books, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1168-6

A summer vacation turns into a warm and joyous lesson in family history when young Ernestine visits her relatives in North Carolina. A long train ride from the north has landed her on Uncle June, Aunt Beula and Cousin Jack's farm--the same farm where Ernestine was born and where her mother grew up. The girl's initial shy inquisitiveness gives way to a comfortable confidence as anecdotes, mementos and her own imagination help her weave a tapestry of family ties that she'll treasure forever. Gloria Pinkney's text has a relaxed pace that is perfectly suited to the summer setting. Her characterizations are particularly well drawn, and her dialogue thoroughly convincing. In some of Jerry Pinkney's finest work, sunlight filters through his pencil and watercolor illustrations, imbuing them with a feathery soft glow. Rustic elements such as mule and plow, a pipe stove and Uncle June's beloved old truck create a vivid sense of time and place. The human figures seem to spring to life in several atmosphere-laden scenes, their expressive, down-home faces shining with surprise, admiration and love. In a similar vein, Donald Crews's nostalgic Bigmama's evokes the same fond sentiments through slightly younger and more rambunctious protagonists. Ages 5-9. (Sept.)