if i was the sunshine by julie fogliano + loren long
if i was the sunshine
julie fogliano + loren long
review copy from simon & schuster
if i was the sunshine is a gently glowing poetic ode to pairs and partners, to connections and affection, all without every using the (often overused, in picture books especially) word love. if i was the sunshine begins, "if i was the sunshine / and you were the day / i'd call hello! // and you'd call me stay" and goes on through the natural world, evoking deep bonds, but also making readers work sometimes to truly understand. The first three lines of the stanza appear on a two-page spread, with a page turn revealing the final line and the connecting metaphor. There is no capitalization, no punctuation, calling to mind the poetry (and spirit) of e.e. cummings.
Sometimes, Fogliano's quatrains perfectly capture the feeling of nature, as with, "if you were the winter / and i was the spring / i'd call you whisper // and you'd call me sing."
One of my favorite stanzas of the book, above, evokes classic children's books about the (complicated) nature of love between a child and parent, Margaret Wise Brown's The Runaway Bunny and Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree: "if you were a bird / and i was a tree / you'd call me home // and i'd call you free." Long's illustrations begin with a mother and daughter on a farm and, after trekking through the forest, over the mountains, across the sea and over icy terrain, return to the same farm where Fogliano ends with, "if i was the morning / and you were the night / you'd call me tomorrow // and i'd call you sleep tight."
Long's illustrations pair perfectly with Fogliano's words and it feels right that, rather than the usual "written by & illustrated by" we see on picture books, the pair get equal billing (is the a jab at the Caldecott award, which is awarded to the illustrator of the picture book who, TBH, wouldn't be there without the author?) His illustrations range from warmly glowing and playful to solemn and meditative, always making the connection clear and adding to Fogliano's words. Knowing that if i was the sunshine is sure to be an significant book, it is printed in a large, square trim size and the book case (the hardback cover) and pages are thicker than usual. The book itself is as gorgeous as the words and pictures it contains!