Years ago, Susan Cooper wrote a beloved poem that has remained a mainstay of John Langstaff’s phenomenal theatrical production Christmas Revels, performed each year across the country (see it if you can!). Now transformed into a picture book, The Shortest Day is a joyful and timeless celebration of the winter solstice that will surely become a classic.
Even very young children will enjoy Cooper’s splendid, stately words: “And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world / Came people singing, dancing, / To drive the dark away.” The multitalented, Caldecott Honor-winning Carson Ellis (Du Iz Tak?) is the perfect illustrator for this project, using muted colors to accentuate the changing interplay between the sun and surrounding darkness. Beginning with a scene of prehistoric people and a godlike sun figure walking the earth, Ellis echoes the sweep of ages so prevalent in Cooper's poem, showing a progression of people and homes, ending with a modern house and children. In a helpful author’s note, Cooper explains both solstice celebrations and the evolution of her poem. In her words, “Welcome Yule!”