Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, June 18, 2020

A Lullaby

For the past few nights, the light of the moon is waning.  By Sunday, the New Moon will shed no glow.  In this black sky, the stars seen overhead are increasing.  Broad highways, pinpoints of light, stretch as far as the eye can see.  Falling stars are more frequent.  Shapes of constellations are more prevalent.  You have to wonder, too, if the absence of traffic for previous months is contributing to the clearer visibility.

When you stand in stillness beneath this star-studded dome, its vastness is soothing but remarkable.  As your senses adjust, you see outlines of your surroundings and hear creatures of the night.  In The Night Is For Darkness (Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, June 2, 2020) written by Jonathan Stutzman with illustrations by Joseph Kuefler, readers take a journey with siblings and their father.  It's a time of encounters, anticipation, and the warmth of welcoming familial routines. 

The night is for darkness
and bright golden beams.

As the car moves along the empty highway, the children are treated to views of deer seeking food, water, and space to sleep.  Wild rabbits leap alongside the car as if racing them to their destination.  When they enter a forest, the boy's and girl's eager looks seek other critters sheltering in their homes.

As the landscape stretches before them, it is easy to see a front moving across the terrain.  In the distance lightning forks to the ground and thunder rumbles.  Ahead of them, the moon continues to cast its luminous light. 

Inside the car, flashlight beams assist in antics as headlights disclose nighttime flight.  Soon a home is reached.  Windows are beacons offering sanctuary.  Arms open in affection.

Bedtime rituals, cozy and comfortable, are for listening and speaking and wishes come true.  Parents calm weary children.  And the moon shines on slumbering souls.

The poetic cadences penned by Jonathan Stutzman lull readers with their repetition of key words and rhythmic rhyming in each pair of sentences or phrases.  As pages are turned, readers are invited to participate in what the darkness provides.  We enjoy the revelations, some familiar and some, perhaps, entirely new. Here is a passage.

The night is for hiding.
And search
and finding.

For spooky tall forests.
For paths long and

The magic often found during the darkness of night emanates from the open and matching dust jacket and book case.  We are drawn into the spacious mountainous landscape.  We are quieted by the shades of blue and purple spanning the partially clouded sky.  The moon illuminates portions of the rabbits' bodies on the front and on the back.  The rabbit on the back is facing the hilly plateaus.  They have both paused in their nighttime activities to watch as the family's car travels down the highway.  Do you notice the special shading on the title text?

On the opening and closing endpapers a rich velvety black supplies a canvas for wisps of clouds, a few stars, and a full moon.  From the first set to the second set, the moon and clouds move.  Joseph Kuefler begins his visual interpretation and enhancement on the title and verso pages with a double-page picture.  The brother and sister are seated on the hood of their car, waiting for their father to finishing packing the boxes on top.  To their left is the home they are leaving.  A For Sale sign hangs in the yard.

With a page turn the siblings are looking out the back window of their car as it leaves their home.  This is a wordless two-page image of a neighborhood with the strong presence of the night sky.  The moon is reflected in one of the windows.  (I am wondering about the significance of the names on the street signs and the license plate number.)

Strong elements are present in all the two-page pictures.  There is a powerful contrast between the darkness, night, and the lights of the car and the moon.  These opposites are created with excellent skill.  Joseph Kuefler shifts between panoramic views and zooming in on a particular scene.  Readers will enjoy the small details he includes like the tiny stuffed animals in the car and their real-life matches in some of the settings.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is when the car stops for a family of deer to cross the highway.  A section of the upper, right-hand corner shows the night sky.  The rest of the double-page picture is glowing in the headlights.  In the background we can see the outline of the car and the faces of the brother and sister filled with wonder.  In the foreground one deer is nearly off the left side.  A fawn is in the middle of the image.  Coming in from the right side is a male with antlers.  Both of their heads are turned toward the car.

Every time this book, The Night Is For Darkness written by Jonathan Stutzman with illustrations by Joseph Kuefler, is read it envelopes you in serenity.  It speaks of the natural rhythm of the outside world and our place in it.  It invites us into a home with bedtime rituals designed to convey love and security.  It, like the last sentence which is repeated, is a pathway to the sweetest of dreams.  I can't imagine a professional or personal bookshelf without a copy of this title.

To discover more about Jonathan Stutzman and Joseph Kuefler and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Jonathan Stutzman has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Joseph Kuefler has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.

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