cover image Madelia


Jan Spivey Gilchrist. Dial Books, $14.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-2052-7

Gilchrist's (Singing Down the Rain, reviewed below) artistic ability outshines her storytelling in this spiritual tale. Madelia would rather use her new watercolors to paint pictures like those in her father's Bible than attend church. But Daddy, a preacher, gently urges Madelia to ""come on to church, and one day you'll paint your own Bible."" As he sings out the words of his sermon, the restless girl is transported: suddenly she feels herself ascending to the sky, where she seemingly rides a chariot through a storm before rejoining the congregation. The sermon carries all the rhythms and emotion of a transformation, and is ably captured in two accompanying paintings. However, readers may well get lost on the flight of imagination that follows, which Gilchrist describes in rather overburdened prose (""A multitude of horses in a multitude of colors charged forth, leaving a dust of pastel smoke""). Predictably, this experience unleashes the child's creativity when she finally returns to her paints. The strongest aspect of the volume is Gilchrist's own gouache paintings, especially several portraits of Madelia--clad in an endearing sailor dress--and her affable father. Even when the story gets carried away, real-life emotions emanate from the art. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)