The White Marble by Charlotte Zolotow, 1963.
It’s a hot night in the city, and John Henry’s parents decide that they should go to the park to cool off. John Henry is a little thrilled to be out with his parents at night, stopping to pick up a beautiful white marble he finds as they enter the park, but disappointed when he realizes that he is the only child there.
Then, a little girl he knows from school, Pamela, comes to the park with her mother. John Henry is pleased to see her because only another child could understand how magical this night in the park really is. He calls to her to come run with him, and the two children run off to play in the park together.
The children kick off their shoes and run barefoot in the cool grass. They lie in the grass for awhile, drink water from a fountain, and have ice sticks (we always called them popsicles when we were kids) from the ice cream man.
John Henry shows Pamela the little white marble he found. Pamela thinks it’s as beautiful as he does, and John Henry realizes that no adult could understand how beautiful a small, simple thing like that could be, only another child. That’s what binds John Henry and Pamela together. As children, they can still appreciate the simple pleasures of life and the beauty and magic of small, ordinary things that adults take for granted, like a small white marble someone forgot in a park or how nice an evening can feel as rain moves in after a hot day.
When it’s time to go home, John Henry gives Pamela the white marble, a memento of this special night.
The pictures in this edition of the book are different from the ones that I remembered from the first time that I read it. This edition of the book, available through Internet Archive, shows the pictures that I remember. The pictures in the later edition of the book are black and white, but the ones in the original edition are done in three colors: black, white, and blue. Of the two, I really prefer the original drawings. They capture the magic of a lovely night shared with a friend.