Quote of the Month

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

Friday, May 6, 2016

A Soothing Symphony For Slumber

Once a sound is attached to a sensory perception it stays there for decades.  At an early age we were taught to count the number of cricket chirps in fourteen seconds and then add forty to that number to determine the current temperature.  Many a night we rested in bed listening and tallying as we fell asleep.  The sound of crickets in summer still means all is right in the world; signaling peace and sweet dreams.  

Depending on the time of day the cricket chorus may be joined with birds calling out at dusk or the distant howl of resident coyotes.  Cricket Song (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, March 1, 2016) written and illustrated by Anne Hunter is a melodious lullaby of words and pictures.  Nature's nighttime rituals lead us down a path to dreamland.

As the sun sails west, bringing the night, the evening breeze rises to meet it.

A sleeping boy cuddling a stuffed toy sea otter is surrounded by the sweet sound of crickets coming through his open window.  Frogs add their voices as a bird nestled on a nest chants its name.  From the woods a fox moves, hunting for its next meal.  

A mother and her baby bunnies stay still as the hoots of an owl blend with the other night noises.  A soft breeze blows over the land from the ocean.  Creatures of the sea drift and dive.  

Happy harmonies of a day drawing to a close cross on swirls of air from a corner of another continent.  Palm branches hold a different bird announcing the setting sun.  In a new house in a room a dozing girl cuddling a stuffed toy parakeet is surrounded by the sweet sound of crickets coming through her open window.  We are connected.

From the poetic prose of Anne Hunter a calming energy rises from the pages as the words are read.  Each sentence floats to the next amid the voices of the creatures calling out into the evening.  Hunter blends 

kreck kreck kreck and
hoo, hoo, hoo 

with the other, at times, alliterative descriptions of animals in motion.  We truly feel as though the planet is a living breathing thing with the air above the land and water carrying bits and pieces of one place to another.  Here is a sample sentence.

The owl watches over the bay,
where drifting sea otters doze
on the tide that carries a rumble from
the whales singing deep in the sea. 

Rendered in watercolor and ink the matching dust jacket and book case and interior illustrations are as soft and inviting as the words.  The muted full color images mirror the changing light and shadows of the day into night.  Hunter's animals are fully animated as they settle into their evening routines. To the left, on the back, beneath the words

What sounds do you hear as you fall asleep?

in an oval inset, the boy is sleeping with his stuffed toy sea otter as his window curtain billows out.

The opening and closing endpapers are a deep midnight blue.  On the initial title page a floating sea otter, a baby resting on her stomach, is featured.  On a more formal presentation the title text is placed on a visual spanning two pages; a close-up of the fox's head peering from the grass across the sea, crickets clinging to the swaying blades.  

Hunter varies her image sizes beginning with a single page, followed by multiple double pages and closing with a single page picture.  The unique thing she does is to place a narrow horizontal picture along the bottom of each two-page visual.  These show the changing day and spread across the space from one continent to the second highlighted continent.  

You can't help but pause and look at every single delicate detail in the larger illustrations and the smaller ones below.  It's fascinating to notice the differences; how the animals have moved.  One creature may appear and a previous one may disappear.  

One of my favorite illustrations is of the whale and calf swimming beneath the surface, currents moved by their tails.  A squid scoots above them.  In the image below them soft lights glow in the boy's home, rabbits are sitting in the yard, frogs are singing in the stream, the owl flies and the otters rock on the gentle waves. It's dark enough now for the lighthouse light to glow in a bean across the sea.  Whale tails break the surface as our eyes go to the right.  In this land fishermen are coming in to the shore in their boats.  A parakeet flies above the palm trees as the sun starts to dip into the ocean.

Cricket Song written and illustrated by Anne Hunter would be a welcome and lovely addition to a collection of bedtime stories.  The cadence of the words and the warmth of the pictures will make for a quiet end to any day.  I can easily imagine children looking at all the small elements in each picture.  I would most definitely include this title in my Sweet Dreams Picture Book August 10 for 10 #pb10for10 posted on August 9, 2015.

You are going to enjoy learning more about Anne Hunter and her other work by following the link attached to her name to access her website.  She has a slide show of images from this title for you to view.  There are six illustrations including the front jacket and case picture.


  1. This was lovely, especially the illustrations.

  2. Yes...I think it is a perfect bedtime book. I would like to see it on all library bookshelves and on children's personal bookshelves at home.