Sonderbooks Stand-out

Sonderbooks Book Review of

Before Morning

by Joyce Sidman

illustrated by Beth Krommes

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Before Morning

by Joyce Sidman
illustrated by Beth Krommes

Review posted August 26, 2016.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 4, 2016. 44 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #6 Picture Books

Here’s a beautiful book for children who wish for snow. I’m not absolutely sure parents will want to encourage this kind of wishing, but the book is so gorgeous – with award-winning Beth Krommes’ art more beautiful than ever – and gives such a sense of peace and well-being, I think it’s worth it.

The author has a note at the back that explains what this book does. (There are more words here than the entire main text of the book, which I counted at 66 words.)

How powerful are words? Can they make things happen? Stop them from happening? Can they protect us? Comfort us? Enchant us? This book is written in the form of an invocation -- a poem that invites something to happen, often asking for help or support. Humans have been using invocations for thousands of years, to soothe the body and strengthen the soul. Do they work? Maybe. Maybe speaking something out loud is the first step toward making it happen.

What is it you wish for? Find the best words for that wish and speak them aloud. Maybe, in the deep woolen dark, snowflakes will begin to fall . . .

The wish expressed in this book is for snow to fall before morning. But oh, the beautiful words used in the invocation! And the lovely pictures!

The pictures tell the story of a mother who’s a pilot. Since her plane is grounded, she gets to come back to her family, and mother, father, and child go sledding together in the delightful white world.

As I said, there are only 66 words in the main text, and they are slowly distributed through the pages. They are well-chosen words, coming from a poet.

After a set-up over several pages of a cold, brown world and bedtime goodbyes, the text begins:

In the deep woolen dark,
as we slumber unknowing,
let the sky fill with flurry and flight.

Let the air turn to feathers,
the earth turn to sugar,
and all that is heavy
turn light….

I’m tempted to quote the entire text – it’s so lovely – but I don’t want to give the impression that you now know what’s in the book.

This book is an opportunity to talk about wishes as well as a chance to treasure the beauty that snow brings.

And who knows? Maybe the wishing will work.