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Children's Bookshelf

October 12, 1986|KRISTIANA GREGORY

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.

In an afterward, the author comments on this philosophy, saying that personal development needs spirit , not material things. "Once you make that decision, your whole life opens up and you begin to know what matters and what doesn't." Three of her collaborations with Parnall have been named Caldecott Honor books, and it's easy to see why. His drawings--here, at least--have geometric designs flowing across double pages into the image of animal or Earth. As with Baylor's prose, all reflect the vibrant, elegant pulse of the Southwest.

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