cover image Zora Hurston

Zora Hurston

William Miller. Lee & Low Books, $16.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-1-880000-14-4

At times effectively mottled, at other times hauntingly distinct, Van Wright and Hu's (Make a Joyful Sound) commanding watercolor paintings are the high point of this book, which recounts an episode in the childhood of the African American author of the acclaimed Their Eyes Were Watching God. Conveying the changing expressions on the face of the young Hurston as easily as they show the grandeur of the sky at nightfall, the versatile artists neatly capture the emotions in this lucidly told story. A stern father tells Zora that she should wear a dress (she wears overalls), read the Bible daily and obey him, but Zora listens only to her mother, who teaches her ``that everything had a voice: the trees and rushing wind, the stars in the midnight sky.'' So the girl accompanies the boys when they gather around the campfires at night and listen to their fathers' tales of Africa. On her deathbed, Zora's mother instructs her young daughter to remember the stories, which ``kept their people alive. As long as they were told, Africa would live in their hearts.'' First-time author Miller's affecting account ends where it began: with Zora climbing a chinaberry tree as her mother had shown her how to do; from the top of the tree, ``Zora saw again the world her mother had given her,'' and she ``promised her mother she would never stop climbing.'' Ages 4-up. (Sept.)