Today I’m introducing two new features of my book review blog: Throwback Thursdays, which will highlight old classics and favorites, and Newbie Tuesdays, featuring new releases. Today, Kristin Mahoney writes about a picture book that made a lasting impact on her childhood–and that you should read to your kids, as soon as possible! You can learn more about Kristin (a New Jersey-based mom, literacy specialist, and imminent picture book/middle grade writer) and connect with her on Twitter at @kmcmahoney. Kristin and I met working at women’s magazines in New York and we keep in close touch today.
When the Sky is Like Lace: the Beauty of a Bimulous Night
by Kristin Mahoney
When I was a kid, there were lots of picture-book worlds I wished I could inhabit. But if I’d had to choose just one, it would have been the enchanted land created by Elinor Lander Horwitz and Barbara Cooney in When the Sky is Like Lace. This was as much of an iconic read for my brother and me as better-known classics like The Snowy Day and Blueberries for Sal.
What makes this book so intriguing? I think all kids suspect that something secret and magical is going on after the sun goes down and they’re tucked away in their beds, and here Horwitz confirms that. Imagine a balmy summer night (or, as Horwitz calls it, a “bimulous night”) where you’re not only encouraged to go outside, but it’s imperative that you do so. Otherwise you will miss marching snails, dancing trees, singing otters, and grass that feels “like the velvet inside a very old violin case” on your bare feet.
This setting is rendered through some of the most beautifully poetic language I’ve ever encountered in a picture book. Check out this description of the dancing trees:
“…on bimulous nights when the sky is like lace, the trees eucalyptus back and forth, forth and back, swishing and swaying, swaying and swishing—in the fern-deep grove at the midnight end of the garden.”
And speaking of swooning, I wish I could adequately describe just what a knock-out Barbara Cooney’s illustrations are here. The three little girls exploring the night under an incredible purple sky occupy what, in my opinion, are some of Cooney’s most breathtaking works (given that this is the person who also illustrated Miss Rumphius, Ox Cart Man, and Letting Swift River Go—to name a few—that’s saying something).
For a while this book was out of print and could only be bought for an arm and a leg on ebay (luckily my childhood copy was still in one piece, and I have read it countless times to my own daughters, who love it as much as I do). But it’s back in print and available at normal picture book prices, so I’d highly recommend requesting a copy at your library or local bookstore. As Horwitz says, when it comes to bimulous nights, “you don’t want to miss a thing.”