cover image GHOST WINGS


Barbara M. Joosse, Chronicle Books, GHOST WINGSBarbara M. Joosse<. , $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-2164-3

Potter's sublimely quirky illustrations adorn this moving tale of death and remembrance set in Mexico and linked to the rhythms of the monarch butterfly. "Grandmother was my best friend," confides the narrator, who treasures their visits to the "Magic Circle" where, every winter, the migrating butterflies "filled the trees with gold." One spring, however, Grandmother becomes "thin as smoke" and soon dies. The disappearance of the monarchs becomes a metaphor for the girl's grief. Later, during the Days of the Dead, the annual celebration honoring those who have died, the girl and her family visit her grandmother's grave. There, a butterfly alights on the girl's arm, melting her sadness: "In my head, I heard Grandmother's songs…. I remember how she smelled, like cornmeal and roses." Joosse's (Mama, Do You Love Me?) poetic descriptions ("when they flew away their wings rustled like skirts") and intriguing details of Mexican culture, from tortillas made on a metate to calaveras (traditional skull-shaped chocolate and sugar candies skulls) eaten during the Days of the Dead, inform her sensitively drawn story. (Unfortunately, a key word is spelled wrong—the family creates an "alter" to honor Grandmother.) Potter's singular watercolors, rendered in subtle earth tones and accented with pungent shades of red and orange, capture the arid landscape, and her signature characters, with their slightly elongated Modigliani-esque faces, are as graceful as the flight of a butterfly. Ages 3-8. (Apr.)