Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, October 4, 2013

As The Sun Sets

If you are outside it happens nearly without your knowing.  Inside you look up thinking, it might be time to turn on some lamps.  It's an in-between time.  One minute it's here, the next it's gone.

It's subtle but nearly tangible, a natural shift between day and night, the darkest part of twilight.  Signaling an end, but heralding a beginning, it's a series of almost magical moments.  Dusk (Margaret Ferguson Books, Farrar Straus Giroux) written and illustrated by Uri Shulevitz finds the magic in those moments as it follows a grandfather, a boy and a dog on an evening in December.

Days are short.
Nights are long.

Strolling through their city, the trio reaches the river as the sun dips into the horizon.  The boy sees sorrow in the day's end.  But the grandfather utters a single word, dusk.

As they wander back to the city, people are busy, some anxious to get home, others out to make purchases in shops lining the streets.  Four memorable, unique people pass by the three walkers.  A gentleman is looking for toys, a lady needs food, an acrobat (retired) wants treats for his sweet and a guest from the planet Zataplat is busily taking pictures.

Silent as a shadow, darkness descends and light fades.  Like the day, the city has rhythms too.  One by one small luminous pockets appear, street lamps, store windows, holiday decorations, car lights, celebratory processions and candles in windows.

Without speaking, hand in hand the grandfather and boy walk and watch; their canine companion enjoying the changes in the city as well.  People are observing the special days December brings.  There is no sadness here but a happiness filled with light.

Uri Shulevitz uses the smallest amount of words possible to narrate this special tour taken on a single day by

boy with dog and grandfather with beard.

As each page is turned the word or words are placed usually in the far left and right corners.  Twice Shulevitz alters this technique.  At the story's beginning and end the boy addresses the grandfather aloud.  When readers are introduced to the four individuals on the street,  they speak in rhymes to us.  The last word in these four poetic paragraphs rhymes too. The effect is musical, flowing from the beginning to the end.

This tale truly starts on the front matching jacket and cover with the three walking the snowy city streets toward the river as the sun sets.  The complimentary color palette, the geometric cityscape, the body shapes and facial features mesh to create a book singular to the work of Uri Shulevitz.  On both the opening and closing endpapers a solid, glowing yellow gold is used.  It is represented on every single page giving the book a soft, unifying gleam in varying degrees.

Alternating between edge to edge double-page, single-page and partial page illustrations with white borders along the bottom or sides, Shulevitz gives our eyes the same sights as his characters.  You can nearly feel the chill in the air through seeing the rosy cheeks and the red noses on everyone's faces.  Those four specific characters appear again as part of other city views further adding to the book's cohesiveness.

Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa are each featured as we pass by the windows of stores and homes or greet groups of children parading down the sidewalks.  Details like naming a theater the Mother Goose Theater, a sign reading A B C D, having the group stop to look at books in a shop or another billboard saying READ BOOKS, increase the allure of this title.  My favorite illustration (there are so many) is of everyone, including grandfather, boy and dog, looking at the Christmas displays in a store window.  (The coat-wearing dog will make readers smile.)

Dusk written and illustrated by Uri Shulevitz not only captures memories of one fine twilight but is a tribute to celebrations in December, celebrations bringing light into people's lives as do the lights of the city.  This is a book to add to those titles talking about the cycle of a day and the simple but beautiful thrill of a walk taken with those you cherish .  I highly recommend this book.

Please follow the link embedded in Uri Shulevitz's name to learn more about him.  The video at this page is very good.  Shulevitz speaks about his work.  Here is a link to the publisher website featuring more artwork. This link takes you to a pronunciation of Uri Shulevitz's name straight from the man himself.

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