"BYE, MIS' LELA" by Dorothy Carter


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This hushed book about life and death, arrivals and departures, and hellos and good-byes, is so reflective and subdued it feels as if it should be read aloud in a whisper. Sugar Plum, an African-American preschooler, has a hard time when her mom, who works, drops her off at Mis' Lela's, but Mis' Lela is an old soul and knows how to console a youngster. Soon Sugar Plum is enjoying herself, sharing with Mis' Lela the small incidents of her day. She is droll at the arrival of Mr. Tinker Man: ""He's gonna mend one hole and punch two, making more leaks in my fin tubs,"" and understated about a visit from Mis' Bible Lady--""My, that woman can talk."" Then, when Mis' Lela dies, Sugar Plum must contend with grief--emotions that are limned in childlike and immediate terms. Stevenson's soft-edged illustrations heighten the dreamy quality of the text, so much so that it seems only natural that Sugar Plum, old enough to head to school, says a quiet hello when she walks past Mis' Lela's old house, and that a familiar ""Study your lessons, Sugar Plum, and mind your manners"" seems to come floating sweetly back from the ether.

Pub Date: April 14th, 1998
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: "Farrar, Straus & Giroux"