<b>A reassuring New Year's forecast</b> What better way to begin this new year than with a lyrical journey and a reminder of all things comforting in Cynthia Rylant's new picture book, <b>The Stars Will Shine</b>. Though we often take for granted the dependability of our natural world, Rylant gently reminds us that nature offers solace and continuity: The sky will still be there/the stars will still shine/birds will fly over us/church bells will chime. Rylant, who has captured readers of all ages with her skill at weaving a story, now creates a book in verse reminiscent of her early work, <i>The Everyday Children</i>. Illustrator Tiphanie Beeke, of <i>Mommy Loves Her Baby/Daddy Loves His Baby</i>, is a perfect match for Rylant's lilting cadence. Together they show families engaged in the simple acts of reading bedtime stories, enjoying a tree swing and planting a garden. The story is almost like a lullaby or prayer with its reassuring images of rebirth, light and the strength of love. The softly blurred edges of Beeke's watercolors will enchant both young and old. We are greeted on each page with joyful depictions of children, animals and adults, at work and at play together. Beeke leads the viewer's eye from page to page, employing a full palette of colors, both warm and cool. She celebrates the diversity of our world in her portrayal of multiracial faces and of settings both urban and rural. <b>The Stars Will Shine</b> will hold special appeal for toddlers and preschoolers, who are sure to be tantalized by thoughts of ice cream/three scoops high! and who will be soothed by images of crackling fires and families snuggled together. Rylant's lulling rhyme, homes will be cozy/homes will be warm/we'll curl up together/when rain makes a storm, should make this picture book a bedtime favorite.

As the new year begins, Rylant offers a reminder of all that's important and captures the essence of what binds us together as human beings. <i>Jennifer Robinson is a teacher in Baltimore.</i>

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