Review of The Shortest Day

The Shortest Day
by Susan Cooper; illus. by Carson Ellis
Primary    Candlewick    32 pp.    g
10/19    978-0-7636-8698-7    $17.99

“So the shortest day came, and the year died, / And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world / Came people singing, dancing / To drive the dark away.” Thus begins Cooper’s powerful celebration-of-the-solstice poem, performed each year at the Christmas Revels. As Cooper’s text delves into humankind’s profound relationship with Earth’s cycles, so, too, do Ellis’s stunning gouache paintings, with images of ancient peoples, gods, and monsters, but (like Cooper’s poem) always connecting past to present. For example, a double-page spread of long-ago villagers emerging from a stone house to fight “the dark” is later echoed by contemporary children heading outside to celebrate the season. An author’s note tells more about winter-solstice renewal rituals through the ages, the Christmas Revels, and founder Jack Langstaff; and the poem’s full text is printed at the back. “Welcome Yule!”—as well as this superb picture book.

From the November/December 2019 Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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