I'M IN CHARGE OF CELEBRATIONS by Byrd Baylor, illustrated by Peter Parnall (Scribner's: $13.95; 32 pp.; ages 6-9). The cover is so similar to that of "The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses" by Paul Goble (Bradbury, 1978), I nearly mistook this for a reprint. Both show a Native American girl in the desert, standing with outstretched arms, their faces turned toward an imposing red sun. Each girl has long black hair, wears a dress with a silver belt and, as becomes evident in the stories, each honors her natural environment with a reverence.
Byrd Baylor's lyrical prose is stretched down each page like a slim poem, comfortable to read aloud or silently. Reproduced here, its style may seem staccato, but it is smooth as hourglass sand: "You can tell / what's worth / a celebration / because / your heart will / POUND / and you'll feel / like you're standing / on top of a mountain / and you'll / catch your breath / like you were / breathing / some new kind of air."
The young narrator describes her joy in nature as she watches an old desert tortoise or a cloud shaped like a parrot. On a summer afternoon when she and a nearby jack rabbit stand in a drizzle of rain to stare at a triple rainbow, she names Aug. 9 as Rainbow Celebration Day, forever to remember ". . . the hill and the rabbit and the rainbow and me." It's wonderful to see someone who doesn't need a shopping mall to mark an event.