From the author of The Painter and the Wild Swans (1986) and The Voice of the Wood (1989), a third fable about creativity and the imagination, leas complex but equally dominated by symbols. The man here (he looks like a nobly dad Renaissance angel) walks the earth with a long ladder that he ascends at night to polish the stars. He's followed by a single bird, which loses courage when he climbs too high, and a homeless waft who understands his mission; his ladder is senselessly cut down (""without an upward glance"") by the churlish woodcutters who have refused him food because he doesn't ""work."" It doesn't matter: he and the boy can still travel the sky, filling it with light. Howe's beautifully crafted paintings in elegantly somber tones are the perfect match for the tale's stark simplicity. The message seems a little insistent, especially after three books; still, this is the best so far, and the image is compellingly presented, especially in the illustrations.