Thursday, December 8, 2011

10. One Starry Night

Written by Lauren Thompson
Illustrated by Jonathan Bean
Margaret K. McElderry, 2011
$16.99, ages 1-6, 32 pages

The story of Jesus's birth feels like a whispered lullaby in this breathtaking book that alternates line by line between two poems.

In the first poem, author Lauren Thompson describes nativity animals keeping vigil over their young, while in the second, she assures a child she'll always stay near.

The effect is lovely, and it allows the adult reading the story aloud to draw the reader in in a very intimate way.

When Thompson writes that on a starry night, a sheep watches over her lamb, the words, "I am here," echo afterwards in italics, as if spoken in a hushed voice to a child.

She continues on, introducing eight more creatures and their young, from a cow with calf to a dove with doveling, then ends with Mary and Joseph cradling their newborn Jesus.

With each animal comes another promise to a little one in the reader's arms.

After that first line "I am here," the poem continues, "always near / never far / wherever you are / caring for you / whatever you do / day and night / my love is bright…"

The words are simple, yet stirring, and when paired with the first poem, create a feeling of harmony, much like the effect singing rounds has on the listener.

As a result, reading the verses feels like singing them -- a sensation that matches beautifully with Jonathan Bean's simple, fluid pastels.

In muted sandy tans, gray blues and coal-dark black, Bean depicts the animals moving starward across a silent, moon-washed hillside.

All feels calm, all is bright, and the sound of poetry lingers in the air.

Thompson also wrote the beloved Little Quack series and Leap Back Home to Me, while Bean illustrated The Apple Pie That Papa Baked, winner of the Ezra Jack Keats award.

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