Before Morning by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes

Joyce Sidman and Beth Krommes have a way with creating meditatively beautiful books that make you slow down and think about the world around you. Their works are like the picture book equivalents of a deep, cleansing breath. With their newest book, Before Morning, they visit the magical world of a snow day. I say magical because, as a native Southern Californian, a snow day seems extremely exotic and unattainable, almost like getting to visit Santa's workshop or Dumbledore's office. 

Before Morning begins with eight pages of illustrations that show us a mother and child walking home through a bustling city as night falls. Entering their apartment, we see the table is set for dinner, and parents are hugging, yet the look on the child's face is one of sadness. The final page of illustrations before the text begins shows the mother sitting on her child's bed saying goodnight. She is in a pilot's uniform and a book about Amelia Earhart is on the child's bed. It is time for her to go to work. A page turn reveals the words, "In the deep woolen dark, as we slumber unknowing, let the sky fill with flurry and flight." As an afterword from Sidman tells us, Before Morning is written in the form of an "invocation - a poem that invites something to happen, often asking for help or support." As the wonderful poetry of Sidman's text flows on, she asks that the "air turn to feathers, the earth turn to sugar," as she asks for snow to fall. We see the city dwellers cope as their world is blanketed in white and we see anxious, weary travelers at the airport, watching the snow fall out the windows as Sidman asks to let "urgent plans founder," and let "pathways be hidden from sight." As the story goes on, readers will realize that the invocation is from (or for?) the child wishing for the mother's return and having that wish granted. "Please - just this once - change the world before morning: make it slow and delightful . . . and white." The final illustrations show the family happily reunited and heading out into the newly white world for a day of sledding.

One thing I especially like about Krommes's scratchboard illustrations are the almost genderlessness of her characters, allowing readers to imagine a boy or a girl child awaiting her mother's return. I wish I lived in a snowy place and my kids were small again so that we could read Before Morning together, cozy in bed, on a night when snow has been promised, falling asleep and hoping to be greeted by a snow day in the morning - the gift of a pause in our busy lives. A deep, cleansing breath.

 More books by 
Joyce Sidman & Beth Krommes:

Source: Review Copy

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