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Before Morning

 
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Reviews for Before Morning

Starred Review: Horn Book Magazine, July/August 2016
Sidman and Krommes (Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow, rev. 9/06; Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature, rev. 9/11) reunite for this picture-book evocation of a child’s hopes. Wordless front-matter illustrations rendered in Krommes’s signature scratchboard technique depict a mother and child walking their dog at the end of a bleak winter’s day. After arriving home, the child frowns upon seeing a brimmed blue hat with gold embellishments. On the facing page, the child tries to hide it from the mother. Toy planes and a book about Amelia Earhart help connect the dots: it is a pilot’s hat; the mother is a pilot; and the child doesn’t want her to leave. Backstory established, Sidman’s poetic text begins (“In the deep woolen dark, as we slumber unknowing”) as Mom, dressed in full uniform, departs while her family sleeps. The ensuing incantation is for snow to come (“Let the air turn to feathers, the earth turn to sugar”), and, sure enough, a blizzard grounds planes and sends Mom home (with help from a friendly snowplow driver). When the family heads outside to play the next morning, the art brightens significantly, with large, open patches of white that interrupt the steady crosshatching. This is no adult-dreaded snowpocalyspe; it’s a welcomed snow day, “slow and delightful…and white.” Throughout, Krommes’s illustrations do the narrative work, and a series of wordless spreads at book’s end provides a sweet balance to the front matter’s opening scenes, slowly easing the reader out of this mesmerizing book.
Megan Dowd Lambert

Starred Review: Kirkus, On-line July 20, Review edition
August 1, 2016
A child yearns for the snow day that will keep her mother, an airplane pilot, home. Krommes' inimitable scratchboard illustrations play with perspective and point of view as they flesh out Sidman's short poem, written in the form of an invocation. Washed with orange, tan, and icy blue, they open and close with landscapes reminiscent of Virginia Lee Burton's work. Moving in on the scene, readers see street traffic and park pigeons. Fallen leaves indicate the season. Mother, child, and dog leave the park, passing a bakery. Three wordless spreads set up the story; on the fourth, the poem begins. It's set with just a few words on the double-page images; some spreads need no words. The pacing is perfect. Careful readers will relish the details and concoct back stories of their own. Overnight, the pilot tiptoes away, just as snowflakes begin to fall. Gradually, park, roads, and cars are covered with snow. Finally she gets to the airport. No planes will fly. Instead, mother returns to a snow-covered world, where all three can breakfast together, toboggan in the park, and celebrate with hot chocolate and cupcakes. A snow day dream! The straight-haired mother and child are nearly genderless, and they are washed with the same peach color as the leaves. On the final endpapers, elaborate blue-tinged crystals float over the quiet snow-covered town. Like a snow day, a special treat with broad appeal. (Picture book. 4-8)

Starred Review: Booklist, September 1, 2016
The team that produced Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature (2011) offers another story both intimate and glorious. A young girl hides her mother’s pilot cap, knowing that it will soon be time for Mom to fly away again. Indeed, as the child sleeps, the mother heads to the airport. But what’s this? Around the brownstone’s windows, snowflakes are drifting. Soon the sky is white and by the time Mom reaches the airport, enough snow has fallen to cancel the flight. She flags down a tow truck that drops her at home, resulting in unexpected time with family to “make it slow” with sleds and and hot chocolate. It is rare in picture books to find words and art so perfectly matched, though perhaps not surprising given the talents of Newbery Honor–winning Sidman (Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night, 2010) and Caldecott winner Krommes (The House in the Night, 2008). Each phrase in Sidman’s spare text evokes the heart and the senses (let “the earth turn to sugar”), while Krommes’ scratchboard art is so intricately rendered, so full of story, that each page could be investigated dozens of times. At book’s end, Sidman explains the text as an invocation, inviting readers to throw their own words and wishes in the air. Who could resist? — Ilene Cooper

Starred Review: Publishers Weekly, October 2016
In a book-length poem, Newbery Honor recipient Sidman (Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night) expresses a heartfelt wish for a blizzard so big that it brings everything to a halt; Caldecott Medalist Krommes (The House in the Night) imagines a child for whom a snow day matters more than most. The child’s mother is an airline pilot, and the first spreads show the girl and her father preparing to say good-bye to her. In this context, Sidman’s words (“Let the sky fill with flurry and flight”) take on a different meaning; the child clearly hopes that, just this once, her mother might stay. As the snow starts (“Let the air turn to feathers”), the mother sets off for the airport, but when she realizes no flights are leaving (“Let urgent plans founder” accompanies huddling groups of stranded airport travelers), she turns back. Krommes’s sturdy, rounded figures and quiltlike compositions convey the family’s joy as the mother returns. The story’s parallel but separate threads—the innocent images of the poem, the cheery reassurance of the illustrations, and the tension of the family’s wait—give this collaboration significant emotional depth. Ages 4–7. (Oct.)

Starred Review: School Library Journal, October 2016
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. This simply perfect book is a must-have piece of portable poetry and art for all collections. (K to Gr 2) – Susan Weitz, formerly at Spencer-Van Etten School District, Spencer, NY

Starred Review: The Bulletin, October 2016
A verse invocation calls for a snowfall (“Let the air turn to feathers,/ the earth turn to sugar/ and all that is heavy turn light”) that will transform the city, while the illustrations focus on one resident’s story. An airline pilot coaxes her hat back from her reluctant child, completes a few last chores, and heads out in the snow to the airport. The snow falls so thickly, though, that the planes are grounded, so clever Mom snags a ride back home on a snowplow and enjoys a family snow day, going sledding in the park with her kids. The poetry is brief but lovely, giving voice to many youngsters’ dreams of a blanket of snow; the art’s creation of a plot gives narrative weight to the verse, while Krommes’ intricate scratchboard illustrations lend a pleasing toylike quality to the rounded figures and stylized landscape. Use this along with Sakai’s Snow Day (BCCB 2/09) for a gentle pairing of snow days where the best part is special family time. A brief note discusses invocations and wishing aloud. DS