Gloria Houston is the author of numerous books for children, including My Great-Aunt Arizona, illustrated by Susan Condie Lamb, which was a Smithsonian Treasure, a Family Channel's Best Book, an IRA Teachers' and Children's Choices book, and an NCTE Best Book, among other honors. She also wrote The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree, illustrated by Barbara Cooney, which was an annual Publishers Weekly Bestseller and was named a Best Book of the Decade by the American Library Association. She currently lives in North Carolina. Susan Condie Lamb has illustrated several other picture books for children, including the beloved My Great-Aunt Arizona by Gloria Houston. Now writing and illustrating her own projects, Susan lives in Connecticut.
The author of The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree and Littlejim again demonstrates her skill as a graceful, affecting storyteller. In spare yet stirring prose, she recounts the life of her great-aunt Arizona, who ``was born in a log cabin her papa built . . . in the Blue Ridge Mountains.'' Arizona and her younger brother attended a one-room school, helped tap the maple trees in spring and ``caught tadpoles in the creek.'' Later, she went away to school, and returned to teach in the same schoolhouse where she herself learned. For 57 years, Arizona hugged her students, and ``taught them words and numbers, and about the faraway places they would visit someday.'' Lamb's bustling paintings--with glowing characters straight out of Laura Ingalls Wilder--convey the timeless beauty of the region, as well as Arizona's warmth and charisma. Though her great-aunt died at the age of 93, Houston concludes that she ``travels with me and with those of us whose lives she touched. . . . She goes with us in our minds.'' Readers will be among the many touched by this very special relative. Ages 6-9. (Mar.)
"A lyrical tribute...a thoroughly heartwarming tale!"--" Childhood Education"
Gr 1-3-- Arizona, a child of the Blue Ridge, is named by her older brother, a cavalryman out West. As she grows up, she longs to visit the faraway places she learns about, but life doesn't offer her those opportunities. Her mother dies and she takes on family responsibilities. Still she becomes a teacher in spite of the obstacles in her path. For 57 years, she teaches generation after generation of students in her one-room schoolhouse, describing for them the wonders of the larger world that she herself has never seen and inspiring in them the satisfaction of learning. Even after her death she still walks with those whose lives she has touched. The text is superimposed over Lamb's full-page paintings. The pictures reflect an idyllic world of light-filled joy and simplicity. Roads, fences, and houses all fit into the landscape of woods and hills as though placed there by nature rather than by human hands. Arizona ages from a baby to a woman in her 90s gracefully and unaffectedly, keeping her high-button shoes and her aprons. The continuity of her life seems to flow from Lamb's brushes, filled with light and color, and her connection to the future is beautifully expressed in the painting of the road curving out of sight into the misty forest. Thanks to Houston and Lamb, readers can still enjoy Arizona's optimism and determination. --Ruth Semrau, Lovejoy School, Allen, TX