cover image The Five Forms

The Five Forms

Barbara McClintock. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-62672-216-3

A girl finds an old book with instructions for “forms,” postures taught in Chinese martial arts that “release the power of the animals they represent.” Despite the book’s warning (“There could be unexpected results”), the girl tries the poses alone in her room. As she attempts the first, crane, stretching out her arms and standing on one leg, an enormous crane appears behind her, playing havoc with her possessions and tugging on her ponytail. More poses—leopard, snake, dragon—bring those creatures to life. The pages can barely contain the resulting chaos as the animals chase one another through the girl’s house, their faces shining with cheer. The creatures initially appear as Chinese-style ink paintings that grow from the girl’s shadow before materializing fully, and McClintock’s graceful draftsmanship makes this visual magic work. In order to restore calm, the book instructs, the girl must enter a state of mental repose. Young martial arts students will recognize the need for masters to harness the power of the mind; that this practitioner wears a pink hoodie makes such power seem in the reach of any kid. Ages 4–7. Agent: Jennie Dunham, Dunham Literary. (Oct.)