Review of If I Was the Sunshine

If I Was the Sunshine
by Julie Fogliano; illus. by Loren Long
Preschool    Atheneum    48 pp.
5/19    978-1-4814-7243-2    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4814-7244-9    $10.99

Fogliano and Long present a big, handsome picture book with a poetic text and lush full-bleed acrylic illustrations, highlighting the natural world and relationships within it. The story begins on a farm, with a rooster crowing and an adult and child walking toward the barn: “if I was the sunshine / and you were the day / I’d call you hello! // and you’d call me stay.” Fogliano’s unexpected yet somehow-just-right phrasing delights the ear with its perfect cadence and tight rhymes that are wrapped up in a near call-and-response rhythm. On the pair of double-page spreads whose text reads, “if you were a bird / and i was a tree / you’d call me home // and i’d call you free,” Long depicts a pileated woodpecker on the spread with the first three lines; then a page-turn shows the bird flying off the recto, free, and leaving behind a heart-shaped pattern of holes bored into the trunk of the tree where it had been perched. Other spreads depict different animals in their habitats. (Human characters are largely absent from the illustrations save the first and last few spreads.) The first-person speaker and addressee seem to shift with each pair of spreads, offering an ambiguous voice that feels right at home with the quiet, subtle movement between human and animal realms. Is there a story? Not really. This is more of a mood piece offering a gentle meditation on connections in the natural world and in human experience, too.

From the July/August 2019 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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