October 15, 2017

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Before Morning by Joyce Sidman | SLJ Review

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redstarSIDMAN, Joyce. Before Morning. illus. by Beth Krommes. 48p. HMH. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780547979175.

before-morningK-Gr 2 –At dusk, a woman, child, and dog hurry out of the park and pass by a bakery, though the wool-capped girl clearly wants to stop. They enter their apartment, where Dad has dinner ready, and everyone looks happy except the girl, who’s staring dolefully at a cap that sits atop a small suitcase. In the next illustration, as the windows reflect the night, a book about Amelia Earhart lies open on the couch as the mother, in her airline pilot’s uniform, seems to coax her child into returning the cap she’s hiding behind her back. Turn the page, and beyond the entry hall filled with winter clothes, skates, and sled, the mother is folding and packing clothes into her overnight bag. Only then do the words begin: “In the deep woolen dark,/as we slumber unknowing,/let the sky fill with flurry and flight.” This haunting invocation summons geese, snowflakes, and a heavy whiteness that refracts the golden city lights. Krommes shows viewers the city from the rooftops, from the back of goose wings, and from the statues in the park. When the poem says, “Let urgent plans founder,” we see the airport waiting room, where the mother gazes out at snowplows under the planes as a sign announces flight cancellations. Any child might be wishing for snow to “change the world before morning,” to “make it slow and delightful and white,” but here, as a stunning series of scratchboard (similar to woodcut) and watercolor pictures reveal, the petitioner is a girl who longs to have both her parents home with her to sled down a steep white slope and to visit that bakery at last. VERDICT This simply perfect book is a must-have piece of portable poetry and art for all collections.–Susan Weitz, formerly at Spencer-Van Etten School District, Spencer, NY

This review was published in the School Library Journal October 2016 issue.

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