Welcome the Winter Solstice with Woodward and Morstad
Book Reviewed: Singing Away the Dark – Caroline Woodward and Julie Morstad, Simply Read Books, 2017 (reprint of 2010 edition)
This is my second blog entry about Julie Morstad, an illustrator whose work should bring intense delight to your celebration of the winter solstice.
Her collaborator is Singing Away the Dark is author Caroline Woodward, whose simple poetic phrases mark the journey of a little girl making her way to the school bus in a snowy rural area. Ms. Woodward, according to the bio on her website, lives on the Lennard Island Lightstation on the British Columbian Coast. Wow. I live in Manhattan, where we also have some lighthouses, but there any obvious connection between myself and the creators of this book ends. However, I love this newly reissued book.
The little girl in the story is brave and persistent. She will not allow herself to be discouraged. She addresses the trees as helpful soldiers: “I see a line of big, old trees,/marching up a hill./’I salute you, Silent Soldiers./Help me if you will.’” Morstad’s use of color is as subtle as Woodward’s choice of words. The girl wears a double-breasted earth-brown coat and dark red mittens, but she holds a lunch box of a bright canary yellow that lights up the snow, and matches a symmetrical yellow door on her red house. Her journey is perilous; at one point she lifts and crawls between two pieces of barbed wire. (Those gloves must be thick!) As she walks through the woods, heads down, she admits her fears: “But creaks and groans and hoots and howls/still creep into my ears,/I take a breath…” The animals silently watching her appear as black silhouettes.
Her eventual arrival at school is a real triumph, as she repeats what she had stated at the beginning of the story, which is actually a memoir: “”When I was six and walked a mile/and sang the dark away.” I was personally quite relieved to see her standing with a friend at a reassuring row of coat hooks, getting ready to reward her efforts in a day with classmates and a warm indoors.
As I pointed out in my previous blog entry, you don’t need to share the physical environment of Morstad’s universe in order to immerse yourself in her recreation of childhood. Children and adults will both feel at home there.