cover image Jamaica Louise James

Jamaica Louise James

Amy Hest. Candlewick Press (MA), $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-56402-348-3

Much like Hest's 1995 How to Get Famous in Brooklyn, this good-humored if slight tale shows the effect a young artist has on her neighborhood. This time her protagonist is an eight-year-old black girl, who paints picture after picture after her mother and grandmother give her a set of paints for her birthday. Then, on her grandmother's birthday, she and her mother descend the stairs of the subway station where Grammy works in a token booth. As a surprise for her, they tape Jamaica's artwork to the walls, transforming the gloomy station into a colorful gallery that makes the once-frowning subway riders smile. Hest pulls readers into the tale by having Jamaica address them directly, with such quips as ""That's me. You better believe it!"" and ""So now you know the whole story."" In keeping with the narrative, Samton's (Oh No! A Naptime Adventure) stylized paintings are decidedly childlike, featuring bold hues and some curiously skewed perspectives. Unfortunately, neither words nor pictures do more than approximate a story--Jamaica Louise James feels like a storybook character, not a real girl. Ages 5-8. (Aug.)