cover image Lost! a Story in String

Lost! a Story in String

Paul Fleischman. Henry Holt & Company, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-5583-2

In this handsomely designed volume, Fleischman (Whirligig) tells a story within a story, illustrated with elegant, framed ink-on-clayboard pictures and with string. When a lightning storm cuts off the electricity, a girl complains to her grandmother that she'll ""die"" without her VCR, TV, radio and computer. Her grandmother responds with the story of a girl whose life really was endangered: ""About all she had in the world to play with was an old piece of string. But that was plenty enough for her."" This girl goes searching for her dog one day and gets lost in the woods during a sudden snowstorm. As the grandmother narrates, she uses string wrapped around her fingers (cat's cradle-style) to form the figure of a dog's head, a jaybird that leads the girl to food and the North Star that leads the child home. Through the girl's own resourcefulness, she manages to survive two days in the forest by herself, and finds her dog. The message is moralistic (""But young as she was, she had a heap of knowledge about getting the most out of what you've got--like making a story out of a piece of string"") and the story seems constructed to serve the pictures made in string (e.g., the girl mentions a man with a bow who might have posed a threat to the dog, but readers later discover that the dog is injured by a bullet); these string images flow from one into the next with simple hand movements (described in an afterword), and they likely work better live than on the page. Still, children who love to play cat's cradle will enjoy learning how to create the series of string illustrations and telling this story to their friends. Mordan, in his picture book debut, provides a dramatic complement for this spare tale with artwork that resembles etchings; he demonstrates how much can be communicated using simple lines and strokes. A history of the pastime and directions for how to create all the string figures supplement the story. Ages 8-12. (June)