Friday, October 07, 2016

Can Wishes Come True? Before Morning by Joyce Sidman

In the deep woolen dark

As we slumber unknowing,

Let the sky fill with flurry and flight,

Let the air turn to feathers.

As autumn leaves drift down to the cobblestone walk through the park, a mother and little girl cross the park and a busy city street, the dog on his leash stopping to look longingly at a squirrel. The child, too, hesitates hopefully before the cupcakes in the window of a bakery, but Mom presses on toward their front door, where inside Dad has dinner on the table for the three of them.

Then Mom, dressed in the uniform of an airline pilot, reads from a book about Amelia Earhart and hugs the girl goodnight.

After a few chores, with the child and cat asleep and Dad dozing in his chair, Mom steals out, pulling her bags behind her, as outside the chill air fills with the snowflakes. Sugary white snow begins to cover the park and give its statues and lampposts caps like little iced cakes.

At the airport flights are already being cancelled, and the disappointed travelers huddle beside their luggage as the waiting jets are grounded.

Urgent plans founder...

Please--just this once--

Mom's wish comes true, and she waves down a snow-plowing truck and hitches a ride back home through a snowbound city. And when the girl awakes in the morning, Mom is there, and there is before them an easy-going snow day... a delightful day for a leisurely breakfast, sledding in the park, and--hooray! the bakery is open, promising cupcakes with their hot cocoa back home.

Who hasn't wished for the blessing of a snow day, a surprise holiday, and this child's unspoken wish comes true, in Joyce Sidman's lovely latest, Before Morning (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016).

What happens when a Newbery author and a Caldecott artist come together? A perfect picture book, one in which poetry and artwork blend seamlessly to create an enchanting experience for young readers. Sidman's text is spare, each word carefully chosen to let Beth Krommes' strong illustrations, many in double-page spreads, fill out the details which tell the story. While father and child hug at the table where a fat roasted chicken and latticed pie await, Mom ruefully gets together her uniform and travel bags for her too-soon departure. In the sleeping house she takes a moment to fold the family laundry before she slips out to go out to work. Krommes' cross-hatched scratchboard illustrations give substance to the story, her intricately feathered flight of sky-borne geese foreshadowing the job Mom hurries to do.

With a narration that evokes longing and illustrations that invite slow, careful scrutiny, this superb picture book captures a happy moment in the life of a family that is both familiar and emotionally satisfying. Starred reviews all around promise potential for attention to this one as book award time rolls around.

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