cover image Daughter, Have I Told You?

Daughter, Have I Told You?

Rachel Coyne. Henry Holt & Company, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-5301-2

This lyrical, feminist work incorporates metaphors about the spirit and power of women shared from generation to generation, but it may be too abstract for the picture-book crowd. In full-bleed spreads, Halstead (Ten-Second Rain Showers) uses rich oils and pastels to depict burnished female figures flowing into the natural landscape: hair undulates into rivers, bodies stretch as tree trunks into the sky. However, presiding adults will be hard-pressed to explain to young listeners such enigmas as why the women have only four fingers and three toes--and that's before they tackle the dense imagery of first-time author Coyne's poem. ""Daughter, have I told you?"" each sequence begins, heralding an unfurling of complex comparisons: ""You are of women with tongues long like the river winding out tales as old as the Mississippi""; ""You are of women with feet as heavy as the gray stones of the riverbed."" Halstead's illustrations valiantly lend a universal quality to the womblike mother-daughter embraces, showing different shades of skin and types of hair as well as diverse terrain (marsh, prairie, woodland). Although the art offers some startling moments for contemplation--a coral-lipped face seen only in golden, horizontal profile gazes up at the luminescent moon--the narrative labors under the combined weight of its didacticism and poetic aspirations. All ages. (Apr.)