The gifted author of Trail of Stones (1990), a series of searching psychological portraits in verse of familiar folkloric characters, portrays a painfully shy boy. Eric's only friend is the ""Night Shimmy,"" an imaginary alter ego who wears a black mask and witch's hat, also seen at times on Eric himself. One day Eric plays with Marcia, who doesn't mind his silence. After they enjoy flying Marcia's parrot kite, Eric has a night of unusually peaceful dreams, but awakes to find that the Night Shimmy has abandoned him. At first angry with Marcia, he relents when her kite gets caught in a tree; after he frees it, they begin to talk. From the black title spread with four takes of a door opening to a sky where dawn and then day supplant the stars, Browne brings his usual allusive power to the illustrations. The boy's solitary withdrawal and hesitant response to Marcia's proffered friendship are masterfully conveyed by skillful manipulation of relative sizes and distances and of the intensity and range of color, by surreal changes in details, by the use of dramatic shadows, and even by cropping--as well as by the black ground that squeezes the first illustration into a 4-inch square, then waxes and wanes and ultimately disappears when Eric begins to share his imaginative thoughts with his new friend. A subtle and perceptive treatment of a familiar theme, with an unusually harmonious melding of text and art.