HOME IN THE SKY by Jeannie Baker
Kirkus Star

HOME IN THE SKY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The tactile and spatial and atmospheric reality of these ""collage constructions"" of Manhattan rooftops and street-fronts will wow youngsters, and anyone else who sees them. The Central Park trees are constructed of real leaves, the buildings are modeled in relief. But this is more than skillful model-making, or clever miniaturization; it's more than three-dimensional illusionism too--though there's bound to be much exclaiming along those lines. Baker, an English-born resident of Australia, combines photographic vision, a still-life painter's sense of composition and color relations, and a goldsmith's delicate, expressive detailing. But the object of all her attention is, first, ""an abandoned, burned-out building"" where a man named Mike keeps pigeons; the subject is what happens when one pigeon, Light, flies away instead of coming home. Light soars over Central Park; he loses food to the street pigeons; ""his wings become heavy"" in the rain. Then he flies through an open doorway, into a subway car--""where a boy picks him up, holding him firmly so he will feel safe."" The first miraculous illustration is the rooftop where Mike's pigeons take off, the brown- and gray-toned roof-scape stretching to the grayed Manhattan skyline on the horizon. The second miraculous illustration is its antithesis, the subway car--where without jokiness (or Cabbage Patch mushiness) we see New York's motley people individualized in fabric and paper and clay. The boy takes Light home; ""his mother explains that the band around Light's leg means that he belongs to someone""; and Light, released, flies back to Mike by ""instinct."" (A spectacular camera-angle up between skyscrapers.) The next morning the boy eyes a flock of wheeling pigeons, ""sure he sees a white pigeon among them."" The matter does suit the manner; though the verisimilitude of the constructions works against any story, this one is elemental and integral enough to pretty well hold its own. The reason: there's as much that's magical as literal in the pictures.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Greenwillow