As if on some internal clock, a stiff breeze blowing throughout the day will calm as dusk descends. Squawking blue jays, save further chiding for tomorrow. Bright blooms fold their petals until the sun welcomes with warming rays in the morning.
A busy pace is slowing. In Go To Sleep, Little Farm (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September 2, 2014) written by Mary Lyn Ray with art by Christopher Silas Neal readers are gently lead about the farm, surrounding fields, and nearby woods as night falls. Inside the house a little girl mirrors the animals and their activities as she and her family welcome bedtime.
Somewhere a bee
makes a bed in a rose,
because the bee knows day has
come to a close.
A beaver builds a bed of branches, a bear snuggles inside a log and mice burrow to hide from a hungry owl. Kits heed the call of a mother fox. Horses, cows and a single rooster come to rest. A peaceful pastoral scene is unfolding.
A clear sky supplies a canvas for twinkling stars. Rabbits run for home. Deer come out of hiding to eat their meals.
Having finished for the day a farmer father turns out lights, heading to tuck in his daughter. A book is opened. A story is shared. A mother bends to whisper words as a daughter drifts into dreams. Outside the world heads further into slumber.
Simple lilting words by Mary Lynn Ray lead readers into the soothing softness of the dark. Her rhymes pave a path for us to follow from creature to creature. Through a selective use of language she shapes a lullaby balancing between the inside and outside worlds. Here is another example.
Somewhere a worm sleeps in the dirt.
Somewhere a pocket sleeps in a skirt.
It's impossible not to feel a sense of calm when looking at the illustration spanning the dust jacket and cover. Christopher Silas Neal's color palette, here and throughout the book, reflects the fading light of sunset to the shadows of twilight and the deep hues of night. The rusty barn red, shades of blue, gray and black, green and pale yellow, cream, brown and white mingle on a matte-finished paper to convey emotion and mood.
Neal alters the size of his illustrations to heighten the meaning of the text; taking readers close to an item, moving back to give a greater perspective or showing a cut-away underground, underwater or inside (the log) to bring us into the story. It's interesting how he interprets the text by showing a comparison of the animals engaged in getting ready for bed on the left with the young girl doing something similar on the right; the beaver building a pile with sticks as she builds a pile of toys on her bed. Careful readers will note the passage of time through not only the change in background colors but in the time conveyed on the bedside clock. Neal meticulously places series of the letter z adding to the tranquility.
His two-page picture of the brown rabbits clustered together in sleep with a seventh hopping to join the group is one of my favorite illustrations. They are gathered in a flower-dotted clearing surrounded by bushes and trees. The barn, farmhouse, fencing and a single horse are featured on a rise in the distance. This is the accompanying rhyme.
Already, trees sleep the way that trees sleep.
Brown rabbits snuggle in a sleepy heap.
To settle a group, to close a day of classroom work or send your children off to bed, Go to Sleep, Little Farm written by Mary Lyn Ray with art by Christopher Silas Neal is a stellar selection. I guarantee everyone, readers and listeners alike, will feel the calming comfort of the combined text and pictures. So get comfy, snuggle with your friends and family and read this book. It's sure to become a often-requested title.
For more information about Mary Lyn Ray, her life philosophy and her work visit her website by following the link embedded in her name. At Christopher Silas Neal's website, linked to his name, he includes nine interior illustrations. Information is also supplied about the process used to create other artwork.