Review of Before Morning

sidman_before morningstar2 Before Morning
by Joyce Sidman; 
illus. by Beth Krommes
Preschool    Houghton    48 pp.
10/16    978-0-547-97917-5    $17.99    g

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.

From the July/August 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Megan Dowd Lambert
Megan Dowd Lambert

Megan Dowd Lambert is an instructor at Simmons University’s Center for the Study of Children’s Literature. For nearly ten years she also worked in the education department of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

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