cover image Something for James

Something for James

Shirley Isherwood. Dial Books, $14.99 (28pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1914-9

When something arrives in a brown paper bag one day for a boy named James, everyone is anxious to see what it contains. Despite clues to the contrary (""long soft ears and a nice round tummy""), stuffed toy Elephant and Winston the puppy suspect that it might be a ""terrible fierce pouncer."" Fortunately, Bear, who ""was very old, and knew almost everything,"" and whose paw ""had the comforting smell of muffins and cocoa,"" settles the question by coaxing the new toy out, whereupon it is warmly welcomed into James's coterie. Isherwood's fluid prose is keenly attuned to the picture book format--she makes every word count, and the outcome is a perfectly balanced, perfectly paced story. In a felicitous marriage of art and text, first-time illustrator Reed's radiant watercolors set off the tale like a Tiffany setting displays a gem, and he expertly captures Isherwood's vision of a place where the line between fantasy and reality is blurred, the sort of place occupied by Jane Hissey's Old Bear series. The cozy world that the story and the warmly lit artwork portray is one that readers will eagerly enter time and again. Ages 4-8. (May)