A flowering plant dug from Ma's garden and set in a wooden box becomes a beacon of hope in this broadly sketched account of a family's arduous wagon trip to California. Using young James as first-person narrator, Ann Turner provides just enough detail to convey the long, bumpy trek through rivers, parching desert, and "mountains knifing the sky." Dennis Nolan's fine pencil portraits, softly shaded in pastels against a muted gray background, are both realistic and evocative. His strong focus on James and Jenny, Ma and Pa, and their wagon and oxen includes expressive and dramatic views against spare backgrounds suggesting the progressive changes in terrain. The journey is unusually solitary with only one human encounter as an Indian dives from the opposite bank to rescue Pa in a rough river crossing. "I know that Indian saved Pa's life, and I know, too, that Red Flower helped somehow." The emphasis on the flower as talisman borders on the sentimental, yet both writer and artist allow space for the reader to savor the hard effort and accomplishment of leaving home and journeying so far. m.a.b.
Turner's (Shaker Hearts; Angel Hide and Seek) somewhat labored story of a family's difficult journey to the California gold rush territory is filled with details familiar to most adults, but centered on an idiosyncrasy. At the beginning, the narrator's mother tells his father, "You can ask me to leave my home and friends, but this flower came from Mother's garden. Where I go, this flower goes too." The symbol of the uprooted flower, though sometimes heavy-handed, generally works as a unifying device for the travails of the transplanted family. Occasionally, however, James's and his family's concern for the flower seems not only needlessly anthropomorphic but misplaced. While they risk dehydration in crossing "the drylands," James shares his tiny allotment of water with the plant ("I told [my sister], `If that flower dies, we'll never get to California' "). When James's father almost drowns, James "clutche[s] Red Flower, [tells] her to watch over Pa," and then credits the flower for helping "somehow" to save Pa's life. The illustrations are poignant in their spareness, if not particularly childlike. As with antique photographs, Nolan's (Dinosaur Dream) finely etched portraits and landscapes are barely tinted with color, except for the red geranium that looms as an emblem of the family's hope. Ages 5-9. (June) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
PreS-Gr 3A boy describes his familys cross-country journey during the California Gold Rush. When Pa declares that they will be heading west, Ma digs up a plant from her garden and insists on taking it along, saying, Where I go, this flower goes too. As the family travels by wagon across rivers, through drylands, and over mountains, the children stake their hopes on the survival of Red Flower. When the plant begins to wither, they worry that they will never reach their destination. Then a new leaf appears and they are sure they will make it to California after all. When Red Flower is finally planted in what will be the garden of their new home, the family is filled with hope for the future. Though the characters have little depth or personality, the simple narrative is enriched by the way in which Red Flower becomes a symbol for the struggles of this pioneer family. Nolans illustrations are particularly effective. Each full-page painting is rendered in soft grays and browns, with just a few splashes of color. The green leaves and especially the red petals of the flower stand out prominently, marking the plants significance in the story. The inventive visual presentation makes the tale involving and memorable.Steven Engelfried, West Linn Public Library, OR Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Turner (Drummer Boy, 1998, etc.) makes a red flower (a geranium in the illustrations) a symbol of a young boy's journey to California that, in turn, becomes a testimony to the pioneers of westward expansion. James and his sister, Jenny, are stunned and dismayed when their father declares that the family is headed west, answering California's siren call of land and riches. In sparse, unadulterated prose, Turner recounts the small family's perilous journey, and their talisman•the lone red flower in a wooden box that Ma has insisted on transporting to the new home. Red Flower endures raging river crossings, arid lands, and a harrowing trip through the Sierras. When Red Flower unfurls a new leaf during their arduous trip, the whole family takes heart. The awesome feat of the family's cross-country journey is rendered all the more inspiring by Nolan's mesmerizing illustrations. A grainy gray background provides stark contrast to the expressively drawn features of the protagonists, with a spare use of color throwing Red Flower's fragile beauty into relief. (Picture book. 5-9)