cover image Alejandro's Gift

Alejandro's Gift

Chronicle Books, Richard E. Albert. Chronicle Books, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-0436-3

In his first children's book, octogenarian Albert uses the appealing story of a lonely man as the framework for an edifying lesson on desert wildlife. Living in a remote adobe house, with only his burro for a companion, Alejandro is delighted when a squirrel appears in his garden one day and eventually returns with more visitors--jackrabbits, roadrunners, cactus wrens--all realistically portrayed by Long ( Ten Little Rabbits ; Fire Race ). Realizing that it is the water in his garden that attracts the small creatures, Alejandro decides to dig a water hole to accommodate the larger desert animals, like the coyotes, javelinas and bobcats. Puzzled when they seem to ignore the water, Alejandro finally realizes that the hole is too close to his house and the road. So the kind man digs another, more sheltered, water hole, and his offering to the animals and their inadvertent gift of company are mutually appreciated. Detailed pictures and descriptions of Alejandro's animal neighbors are provided on the final spread, allowing readers to become better acquainted with the creatures that Long works into her polished paintings, which impressively recreate the muted colors and varied textures of the desert. Ages 3-8. (Mar.)