Hymn of thanks brought to life
Newbery-winning author Katherine Paterson re-imagines Saint Francis of Assisi’s beloved canticle praise song to the natural world in a beautiful new picture book, Brother Sun, Sister Moon. Paterson’s clear prose takes this ancient text and makes it accessible to everyone.
Breathtaking papercut and watercolor illustrations invite the reader to slow down and explore the pictures that extend the text and add a level of grandeur not often seen in books for children. Pamela Dalton’s illustrations start as Scherenschnitte, an old German technique of cutting a large piece of paper into astoundingly intricate details and later adding paint. This style is particularly well suited for book art. The gutter of each spread is the center of each symmetrical illustration; the visual symmetry works especially well with the text, which shows exquisite balance as well. Paterson and Saint Francis speak of Heaven and Earth, Sun and Moon, Wind and Air, Water and Fire, War and Peace, Death and Life, all with a gentle cadence that reminds the reader of the love of God.
Each spread is a self-contained story, with children in old-fashioned clothing living their rich lives. When Paterson speaks of forgiveness and comfort in sickness, Dalton’s illustrations serve as a place for the reader to consider what these words really mean. Framed in a large oval are scenes of children comforting one another and treating each other in kind and forgiving ways. On the left, we have a boy helping a girl pick up a spilled basket of oranges. Above them are two girls sharing a doll. Even the animals joyfully observe this very human ritual.
Paterson comes from a religious family and is married to a minister, but this is no simplistic Sunday School book. Her love of life and deep appreciation for all gifts, even the gift of “Sister Death, who will usher us at last into your loving presence, where we know and love you as you have always known and loved us,” lead the younger reader to consider difficult questions in a comforting context.
This treasure has the feel of an instant classic and should be part of any family’s library. It would be a perfect gift for a baptism, confirmation, birth or any special celebration.