Monday, February 11, 2013

Little Night by Yuyi Morales {The Children's Bookshelf}

If there's one thing I've learned through the past two and a half years of motherhood, it's that you can never have enough good sleepytime stories in your arsenal. We tend to read 2-3 books at bedtime, and at least one of those is generally a winding-down kind of book, the sort that gathers up all Sprout's boundless energy and bundles it away for tomorrow. These books are critical for the active toddler/preschool years, to help transition into sleep, but who among us doesn't love a good snoozy story? I know I do, and the time of night when we're reading quiet tales is one of my favorite parts of the day.

A recent addition to our dozy books collection is Yuyi Morales's Little Night. I initially encountered Morales's work through my multicultural children's literature class, and from the first page of the first story I was hooked. Morales is one of those multitalented wonders who makes your jaw drop not only from her lavish and colorful illustrations, but also from her finely drawn text as well. Really, you can't go wrong with her books - she's definitely one that I consider a cornerstone of diverse children's literature in publishing today.

And with that in mind, let me just say that Little Night is one of my favorites from this extraordinary artist. The story is unique but has a whiff of the familiar about it, as though taken from legend: at the end of day, Mother Sky is helping her Little Night get ready, but the mischievous Little Night keeps disappearing. Mother Sky must stop and look for the silly little one, in places as unexpected as a rabbit hole or a bat cave, and as the colors in the sky deepen, it becomes that much harder to find Little Night. Finally, though, Little Night is all ready, dressed in her gown crocheted from clouds, with her starry pins in her hair. Mother Sky tosses her moon ball to Little Night, who is off to play amid the velvety shadows of the darkened sky.

Oh, this is a beautiful book, and one that you will enjoy just as much as your little one. Morales's story is set off perfectly by her illustrations, of a brown-skinned mother and child playing in the gathering darkness. There's so much whimsy to be had here too, in Mother Sky's curling braids and her trailing skirts, and in Little Night's twinkling eyes and upturned smile. And the colors are all those of the most incredible sunsets -- the palette is rich and deep, adding to the tone of gentle quiet that Morales sets up with her carefully chosen words. (A Spanish language edition is also available).

As we read this the first time Sprout and I talked about how the sky turns colors, from pink to purplish to dark violet and on to black. And now each time we look up at the night sky, I swear I can see Little Night, dancing among the stars with her moon ball, just within her mother's reach.

Little Night by Yuyi Morales, published by Roaring Brook Press
Ages 2-6
Source: Library
Sample: "Mother Sky sits Little Night on her lap and with her shiny comb she untangles the knots, twists the hair between her fingers, and makes little swirls, one on the left side, one on the right. / To keep them in place she takes three hairpins from her pocket. 'Venus on the east, Mercury on the west, and Jupiter above.'"

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1 comment:

Erica MomandKiddo said...

I find so many new books via your blog, Mary! :)