STARRED REVIEW
October 22, 2016

The power of words to make wishes come true

By Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes

In the closing note of this contemplative picture book from the talented Newbery Honor-winning poet Joyce Sidman, the author notes that she constructed the text of the book in the form of an invocation, a “poem that invites something to happen, often asking for help or support.” She notes that humans have been putting invocations to use for a long time, and she prompts readers with a series of questions: Do they work? Can they comfort us? “What is it you wish for?”

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In the closing note of this contemplative picture book from the talented Newbery Honor-winning poet Joyce Sidman, the author notes that she constructed the text of the book in the form of an invocation, a “poem that invites something to happen, often asking for help or support.” She notes that humans have been putting invocations to use for a long time, and she prompts readers with a series of questions: Do they work? Can they comfort us? “What is it you wish for?”

What comes before is a spare, evocative poem, one in which an unnamed speaker asks for the sky to “fill with flurry and flight.” The speaker is asking for snow, and in the next few lines of her poem, Sidman brings the fluffy white stuff to life with fresh and vivid metaphors. The speaker longs for a kind of paralysis of the day—a slow but happy and white day of not having to go out and engage in the usual routines, a day that is changed and renewed by the weather, a day that cancels plans.

Caldecott Medalist Beth Krommes takes Sidman’s words and seamlessly extends them into the story of a young girl, whose mother is a pilot. Is this the girl’s wish? The father’s? Maybe even the mother’s? No matter, because either way the wish is granted: When the snowstorm prevents the girl’s mother from doing her day’s work, she heads home, back to her husband and daughter with some hugs, hot cocoa and pastries to boot. Many spreads, including the first two and final one, are wordless. Krommes’ scratchboard and watercolor illustrations are highly textured and patterned, and just as in the natural world, no two snowflakes are the same. Her spreads are busy but never overwhelming to the eye, and what she does with light and shadow in many of these evening scenes is spellbinding.

It’s a sweet, but never saccharine, tale of family—and so cozy in every possible way that readers will want to return to it again and again. Pair it with your best hot cocoa recipe. Read. Repeat. 

 

Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.

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Before Morning

Before Morning

By Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes
HMH
ISBN 9780547979175

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