cover image Clara and Asha

Clara and Asha

Eric Rohmann, . . Roaring Brook, $16.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-1-59643-031-0

Rohmann (My Friend Rabbit ) introduces a girl who leads a fascinating nighttime existence. " 'Clara! Time for bed,' my mom calls. But I'm not sleepy, so I open my window... and wait for Asha." Clara blows bubbles into the moonlight, which seem to attract the blunt snout of a benevolent, floating creature. On the next page, Clara reaches out to pet a gigantic, mild-mannered striped blue fish who's just come through her window. "We met in the park," the text explains, as Clara peers at a rococo fountain; on its base, stylized fish float tail to tail, blowing out streams of water—and there's Asha. Rohmann has perfected the art of letting the pictures tell the story: here and throughout, he lets the image deliver the punchline. In a page-and-a-half frieze, Asha follows Clara on a slalom course through a cluster of trees with a friendly fish-grin on her face. A series of wordless tableaux imagines Clara and Asha flying together out into a starry sky above a pond, and the two blur tantallizingly (is that a splash in the Milky Way?). As in David Wiesner's work, the fantasy elements look very much at home in the child's realistic setting. Clara and her friend share a poignant farewell scene before the girl returns to bed, her mother never the wiser. In this small-scale, bedtime picture book, Rohmann offers youngsters a taste of power, liberation and joy—and a good joke on the final page. Ages 3-8. (Aug.)