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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Cricket Song, written and illustrated by Anne Hunter. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2016. $23.95 ages 4 and up

"Out in the yard, cricket-song
mingles with the kreck kreck
kreck of frogs in the stream.

The frogs puff their
throats full of cool air
from the woods,

where the poorwill
calls poorwill! poorwill! and
listens for the footfall of the fox."

Two young children, each on the opposite side of an oceanic panorama, settle for the night. As the sun sets in the east and makes its way west, the young boy sleeps in a bedroom awash with dimming light. The breeze blows softly through his window. He and his cat are companions in the growing darkness. His eyes are closed and he embraces a whiskered, furry sea otter to his chest. Crickets can be heard softly calling, along with other nocturnal stirrings.

A peaceful scene runs along the bottom of the double page spread showing his house in fast fading light, and the ocean that separates his home from the sunny beach of a tropical setting. The sounds of the night are gentle and lead readers from animal to animal as they listen to the noises heard at dusk. As his beloved sea otters doze in the waters near his home, they hear whale song. Those whales are warmed by the more tropical waters where the little girl is now also dozing, as the sun begins to set on her yard and her home, while she also listens to the crickets' song.

Lovely language and stunning artwork are sure to bring a halt to the pace of the day, as little ones settle in to hear this enchanting bedtime story. They are sure to be captivated by the many sounds that emanate from the peaceful surroundings. Using pen, ink and watercolor, Ms. Hunter portrays a night in shadow and the creatures whose presence is felt as both children slip into sleep.

The panoramic borders effectively capture the shared experience of two children from diverse settings, showing that we have much in common no matter when we live. The changes from page to page are not dramatic, encouraging attention to the many small details as the sun moves west. What a beautiful invitation to sleep and dream!

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