cover image Please, Louise

Please, Louise

Toni Morrison and Slade Morrison, illus. by Shadra Strickland. S&S/Wiseman, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4169-8338-5

The Morrisons (The Tortoise or the Hare) don’t just champion the act of reading: they explain what it does. Reading is valuable, they explain, because it banishes fear. “Scary thoughts are your creation/ when you have no information.” Louise, an Asian girl, sets out for the library in a yellow rain slicker. The trip is scattered with threats: a strange man hunched over a harmonica, a deserted house with dark windows. The narrator pleads with Louise to think clearly instead of reacting reflexively: “Is that house really haunted? Or does it just need care?/ Why not imagine the joy that used to be there?” When Louise enters the library, its shelves open wide around her in an embrace. Strickland (White Water) paints a moving portrait of Louise in tight close-up, completely absorbed in reading. On the way home, the change in Louise’s attitude is reflected in what she sees. While it’s hard to fault the message that books can open minds and perspectives, the delivery suffers from a cajoling narrative tone and an overall roughness to the verse. Ages 4–8. Illustrator’s agent: Lori Nowicki, Painted Words. (Mar.)