cover image Sweet Magnolia

Sweet Magnolia

Virginia Kroll. Charlesbridge Publishing, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-88106-415-5

A tour of Cajun country, an intergenerational story, a lesson in letting go and an up-close look at wildlife-this text-heavy, poorly paced picture book combines all of these elements without serving any of them well. As part of her birthday present when she turns six, Denise travels by herself to visit Grandma in the bayou. Grandma works as a wildlife rehabilitator, and so Denise helps her tend a wounded owl, fox and bobcat. And Grandma guides Denise when she finds an injured bird. As Denise nurses it, Grandma promises, ""She's yours."" But when the creature is ready to fly, Grandma explains, ""She's yours to help... yours to heal... yours to set free."" Right after the bird flies off, Grandma brings Denise to a fais dodo (party), where she samples gumbo and jambalaya, hears zydeco music and dances. The gawky narrative and stiff art crowd out attempts to establish atmosphere, much less generate genuine feeling. Ages 3-8. (Aug.)