Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Soothing Slumber

If we trust our instincts, follow a hunch, the results are frequently surprising in the best possible way.  It's almost as if some unseen hand is guiding our way.  Untold treasures await us.

Twenty years ago, Amy Gary, editor of the Margaret Wise Brown Estate, on a whim asked Brown's sister, Roberta Rauch, if she knew of any unpublished works.  Can you imagine hearing an affirmative reply? Stacked in a trunk kept in the attic of the barn on her Vermont farm were pages and pages of poems, stories and musical scores.  Last week some of those gems were released into the world, collected in a title, Goodnight Songs: Illustrated by Twelve Award-Winning Picture Book Artists (Sterling Children's Books, March 4, 2014).  The words of Margaret Wise Brown have been visualized by Jonathan Bean, Carin Berger, Sophie Blackall, Linda Bleck, Renata Liwska, Christopher Silas Neal, Zachariah OHora, Eric Puybaret, Sean Qualls, Isabel Roxas, Melissa Sweet and Dan Yaccarino.

Appealing to the inherent musical nature of children these twelve lyrical poems cast a gossamer net pulsing with a gentle cadence around all who read them.  They encourage dreams of playful fantasy uninterrupted by nothing until the morning dawns.  Any cares of the daytime will float away as evening falls through the text and pictures.  Margaret Wise Brown's simple repetitive phrases float and dance off the pages.

Readers find themselves traveling by balloon in the company of a bear, baboon, monkey, troll and mole.  They are lulled to sleep by a very particular melody or in following the nighttime rituals of a goat, or a rabbit and a bear.  I'll wager most readers are unaware of the man in the moon's youth.

Safety on the seas is found in the arms of another.  They learn of those who see what others do not.  Roads travel vertically through an abandoned town constructed entirely of wood.  One by one a donkey, a monkey, a sheep, a pig, birds, a black cat and a child are asked to close their eyes.

What do you see when you close your eyes?  What do you hear in the night?  What might a mouse ask for in a prayer?  Blissful peace is assured.

Two pages are dedicated to each song; illustrations extending edge to edge on heavy matte finished paper.  While the color of the font may vary the same is used in all the text.  The text is tucked within each picture, noticeable but not a distraction.  Tiny white stars seen on the dust jacket and matching book case pattern the opening and closing endpapers.

Renata Liwska captures the soft slumbering characters of The Noon Balloon nestled in fluffy clouds suspended in a pale blue sky.  Intricate lines, exquisite architectural details and a boat riding the waves beneath a full moon ease a child into dreamland drawn by Sophie Blackall in Mambian Melody.  Goats with teddy bears and stuffed toy rabbits and drinking from large pink tea cups populate mountains and hills where skunks carry lanterns and hedgehogs huddle in Goat on the Mountain visualized by Linda Bleck.

Sleep like a Rabbit illustrated by Isabel Roxas pictures a pig-tailed girl in a red dress sleeping near a bear and a rabbit adrift in a sea of stars.  This is also the jacket and case illustration.  Unique, painted, collage-like clouds and stars float around a mustached man in the moon as his younger self runs across his surface when Sean Qualls pictures When the Man in the Moon Was a Little Boy. As if surrounded in a wispy fog Song to Estyn, illustrated by Eric Puybaret, shows a man in a long golden all-weather coat, captain's hat on his head holding a child in a sailor suit on board a ship.

Melissa Sweet's signature style, of pastel collage with splashes of red, pieces together The Secret Song.  White block-like houses, one on top of the other, are strung together by a ribbon road of red among green tulips on a midnight blue background by Christoper Silas Neal for Wooden Town.  An orange, blue, black and white palette feature creatures looking upon and living in a town as a child gazes out his window in Little Donkey Close Your Eyes portrayed by Zachariah OHora.

Blue and white striped curtains billow around the stage set with green birds, blue clouds and rows of cut-out houses in Carin Berger's interpretation of When I Close My Eyes. Bold, bright orange-yellow, orange, green, purple and shades of dark blue mesh perfectly to create the quiet found in Sounds in the Night pictured by Dan Yaccarino.  It's a windy, winter night, leaves and snow swirling about under a full moon as a child sleeps beneath a large leaf and a mouse stands in the doorway of his cozy home in The Mouse's Prayer depicted by Jonathan Bean.

Stunning pictures lift the words of Margaret Wise Brown toward dreamland in Goodnight Songs: Illustrated by Twelve Award-Winning Picture Book Artists.  As if the text and visuals are not enough to hold readers spellbound, a CD with the words set to music by Tom Proutt and Emily Gary is included.  I have listened to it twice as of this writing.  It is truly lovely.  You could not ask for a better book for closing out your day or bringing a small measure of calm into an afternoon.

Two pages at the book's conclusion include thumbnails of the illustrations along with comments about or by the illustrators.  A note from the musicians and credits are inserted on the closing endpapers.  An introduction by Amy Gary begins this title.

I hope you enjoy these videos.  I was made aware of some of them through tweets by the illustrators.

Goodnight Songs: Chris Neal, contributing illustrator from Sterling Publishing on Vimeo.

Goodnight Songs: Sean Qualls, contributing illustrator from Sterling Publishing on Vimeo.

Goodnight Songs: Sophie Blackall, contributing illustrator from Sterling Publishing on Vimeo.

Goodnight Songs: Carin Berger, contributing illustrator from Sterling Publishing on Vimeo.

Goodnight Songs: Isabel Roxas, contributing illustrator from Sterling Publishing on Vimeo.

Goodnight Songs: DanYacarino, contributing illustrator from Sterling Publishing on Vimeo.

Goodnight Songs: Amy Gary, editor of Goodnight Songs by Margaret Wise Brown from Sterling Publishing on Vimeo.

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