cover image Amber on the Mountain

Amber on the Mountain

Tony Johnston. Dial Books, $14.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1219-5

The theme of Johnston's heartwarming story is apparent--``You can do almost anything you fix your mind on''--but her deceptively simple telling boasts believable characters and deft construction. There's never been a school in Amber's mountain community, and not until the appearance of Anna, whose father is helping to build a mountain road, does Amber find someone who can teach her to read. Johnston ( Yonder ; Grandpa's Song ) knits this story together with recurring themes, lyrical images, and picturesque and convincing dialogue. The girls help Granny Cotton with her quilting, ``poking little silver needles in and out, in and out'' and later, Amber is so eager to read that ``she hurries and tangles the words like quilting thread.'' When Anna gets a stubborn look in her eyes, Amber tells her she looks like a mule. ``When old Rockhead looks balkity,'' she says, ``he's up to something sure.'' By book's end, Anna has moved on, but Amber teaches herself to write--with no small measure of persistence. ``If I can read 'em, I can copy 'em,'' she says, and in due time she sends her first letter to Anna. Newcomer Duncan's splendid oil paintings detail the beauty of mountain folk, misty clouds and glorious meadows dotted with wildflowers. Ages 4-8. (June)