The books we buy for children are on a different plane from all the other consumer driven trinkets available today. My earliest purchases of books for my own kids were based upon what I liked as a child, and over time with the help of some knowledgeable salespeople I grew to recognize the more modern classics such as those by Sendak, Silverstein, and later, Van Allsburg.
My children are almost adults now, but fortunately, a two-year-old has come into my life of late, and I find myself once again prowling the children's section. I'm not just looking for something to read, however; I'm looking for magic, for lightning in a bottle. I may have found it in At Break of Day (ages 4Ã8).
Written by poet Nikki Grimes, At Break of Day is an imaginative retelling of the Genesis story, with illustrations by Paul Morin. This book is a feast both for the ear and the eye. The paintings (mixed media, actually) live and breathe on the page with the complexity and depth of reality. They flow like living things, one image to the next, and no two are quite the same. Grimes's words are doubly successful, not only by retelling a familiar story in a fresh, lyrical style, but also by reinterpreting the story in such a way as to build upon it without altering either the spirit or the letter of the original a remarkable accomplishment.
Paul Morin prefers a dark palette for his backgrounds, which serves to make the vivid colors he uses spring off the page. You can almost hear them: Volcanoes hiss, birds shriek, waters roar, and the earth rumbles with the murmur of life. Grimes's words smile alongside, and the joy in these words is palpable.
Most children's books are meant to be read aloud. While At Break of Day is a breathtaking experience when read silently, I think it would be better served with a child in your lap.
James Neal Webb does copyright research for a living raising children is his career.