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THE DIVIDE by Michael Bedard


by Michael Bedard & illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-385-32124-4
Publisher: Doubleday

A picture book about what Willa Cather may have experienced as a child when her family moved west. Winter on the plains, on the Divide in Nebraska, was a mean season: ``There were no farms, no hills, no trees, only the flat, silent land beneath the vast, unbroken sky. She felt they had come to the end of things.'' But then came spring, ``like a shy child bringing gifts of flowers to the door,'' and Willa melts. As Bedard (Painted Devil, 1994, etc.) tells it, Cather delighted in the china sky, the fresh-plowed earth, and the few scattered neighbors: Swedes and Danes, Bohemians and Norwegians. ``Their speech was slow, their words were spare.'' The child comes to love the place: Spring slips into a hot, sunflowered summer, which gives way to a copper-colored autumn, the land ``strong and still and free,'' and brought to life in McCully's watercolors, which can be pensive, expansive, or joy-filled, as required. The metaphors are overtaxed (Willa marvels over the shells she brought with her from the East, ``so plain without, so pearled within''—just like her neighbors, just like the Divide), but a sense emerges of what it is like to be young and scared in a new landscape. The afterword makes reference to Cather's writings, but does not list specific sources for Bedard's text. (Picture book. 4-8)