Wednesday, April 20, 2016

In the evening by Edwina Wyatt illustrated by Gaye Chapman

Yesterday here in Australia our Children's Book Council announced the Notable books for 2016. From this list a short list will be announced in May and then during Book Week in August the winners will be revealed.  This is quite a different process from past years and means I have an enormous pile of books to read.

Early Childhood 23 titles
Younger Readers 14 titles
Information books 15 titles
Picture Book of the Year 22 titles

I probably won't talk about all of these books.  Some are for a younger audience and some don't especially appeal to me but I did pick up a selection from school today.

In the evening is on the Picture Book of the Year list. At first glance this book seems better suited to the Early Childhood category but on further reading I have changed my mind about this.  The lyrical language, emotional arc and relationship of the artwork to this Emily Dickinson poem mean I am sure to find great discussion points for our middle primary students.

There's a certain Slant of light, (320)

Related Poem Content Details

There's a certain Slant of light, 
Winter Afternoons – 
That oppresses, like the Heft 
Of Cathedral Tunes – 

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us – 
We can find no scar, 
But internal difference – 
Where the Meanings, are – 

None may teach it – Any – 
'Tis the seal Despair – 
An imperial affliction 
Sent us of the Air – 

When it comes, the Landscape listens – 
Shadows – hold their breath – 
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance 
On the look of Death –

In this story we meet two squirrels.  Oscar is shy, cautious and house bound.  Charlie is lively, gregarious and outgoing.  Charlie approaches Oscar offering friendship but Oscar does not know what to do, he is overcome by his shyness and so rejects each overture. Every day Charlie tries to reach out to Oscar but each time Oscar hides or pretends to be asleep and finally in his confusion and fear he makes a big mistake

"On Friday evening, when Oscar was sipping his tea, a face appeared at the front window 'Hello!'. Oscar leapt to his feet.  His cup and saucer smashed to pieces. Oscar didn't know what to do. So he shouted 'Leave me alone!'

Now it is Charlie who retreats into his home and when Oscar looks out in the evening the chair on the verandah is empty.  It takes enormous courage for Oscar to step outside and make his own overture of friendship.  Oscar "opened the door. Counted to ten. And stepped outside."

At its heart In the evening is about our need for connection
The opening words of this book are written like a poem.

"In the evening, cars rumbled into driveways.
In the evening, windows lit up.
In the evening, chimney tops puffed.
In the evening, the clouds were purple and pink."

When you turn to the final page you will see an echo of these opening lines including one line which lingers with me "That evening, spoons went back for thirds."

Another thing to notice in this book is the use of longer and very short sentences (see the example above) and the lyrical language.  Here is an example to savour and read slowly "the shapes and shades and shadows of the evening floated by."

There are some wonderful books in this section - Picture book of the Year and only six will make up the short list but I do hope In the evening will be selected because it deals with issues which at time confront all of us - the need for connection and the confusion of shyness.  Over the next few days I will discuss some of the other books in this category.  Here is a review of In the evening and another with some extra details about the art found in this book.  Here is the web site for Edwina Wyatt.  
You can see the covers of two other books in our library with beautiful illustrations by Gaye Chapman.

If you share this book with a younger audience you might compare it with the series of books about Bear and Mouse by Bonnie Becker, the books about Mouse and Mole, Those Pesky rabbits, and the Bear and Chook books.

1 comment:

kinderbooks said...

Okay you have convinced me to go and have another look!