Review: Dusk by Uri Shulevitz


Dusk by Uri Shulevitz

On a snowy December evening, a boy, his dog, and grandfather talk a walk.  They stop to watch the sun sink over the river and then they head into the city.  There people are in a great hurry.  There are people shopping for gifts for their children, others heading home to feed their cats, and even an alien speaking its own language.  As darkness falls, the lights in the city start to turn on.  First just a few, then more, and finally the boy and grandfather are downtown near the large shop windows and it is revealed that this is a holiday book with different windows celebrating Christmas, Hanukah, and Kwanzaa. 

It took until that final reveal to realize that I was reading a holiday book, and that is a wonderful thing.  Instead of centering on the holidays, this book is about quiet moments and time spent together just looking at the changing light in the sky and in the city.  The text is so simple, then becomes dancing complexity when the people start to talk, then returns to the simplicity again.  Readers will be jolted by the change, just as if their own quiet walk at dusk was interrupted.

Shulevitz’s art is so beautiful.  He captures the setting sun with colors that will make readers linger alongside the characters in the book.  He plays throughout the book with shadows, light and darkness.  As the lights come on in the book, the light is warm against the winter darkness and pools in liquid on the ground.  In the reveal of the holiday windows, the illustrations become detailed and honeyed.  Again, a place to linger and bask in that holiday mood.

A top holiday pick, this book is a lovely companion to Snow and stands on its own too.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Review: Don’t Spill the Milk by Stephen Davies

dont spill the milk

Don’t Spill the Milk by Stephen Davies, illustrated by Christopher Corr

Penda lives in a tiny village in Niger with her family.  Her father has headed up into the grasslands with the sheep.  Penda volunteers to take her father a bowl of milk and has to try not to spill any along the way.  She puts the milk on her head and starts to walk.  She has to walk along the sand dunes and between the dancers at the rainy-season mask dance.  Then she takes a boat across the Niger River with the milk still on her head.  After that she has to climb one last mountain and there is her father.  She’s almost there when…  You will have to read whether Penda delivers the milk successfully or not.  

Davies has traveled extensively in Africa and carefully chose the setting of the Niger River thanks to its varied landscape and intriguing animals.  All of the landforms in the book exist in this area as do the animals too, including the unusual and endangered pale giraffes.  Davies writes with a lovely rhythm that moves the book along quickly.  Penda speaks to herself as she walks, reminding herself to pay attention in couplets of natural verse.

Corr’s art is eye-poppingly bright with yellow skies, orange hills, and blue water.  Against those bright colors, the characters wear even more color filled with designs.  The book evokes the vibrancy of Africa and the bustle of its villages. 

Expect small children to want to try to carry bowls of liquids on their own heads after this beautiful introduction to Africa.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.