Although books about the seasons are lovely reading any time of year, there is something about the coming of autumn and all the changes it brings that feels even more appropriate for reading about the seasons. Fall is my favorite season, but I am always willing to ponder the things to love about every season. And luckily, we have a gorgeous new book out this August that provides not only stunning imagery, but includes beautiful songs originally written by Margaret Wise Brown.
This is the second collection of songs released, the first collection I am ashamed to say I have not seen and completely missed when it came out. I will be looking it up immediately as I am smitten by this second book. Allow me to share Goodnight Songs – A Celebration of the Seasons by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by twelve award-winning picture book artists, 2015.
If you have ever read a picture book to a child, you most likely have encountered Margaret Wise Brown at some point. She is a pillar as an author for children, having almost 100 books published in her short 15 year career. But Margaret died tragically at the age of 42, and all of her unpublished works and projects were stored in a trunk at her sister’s home, unknown to the world for decades. Slowly those works are being brought out and given new life with some fantastic illustrators, as we see here.
At this point you are probably wondering why I keep saying songs, and why the title of the book says songs, when they really look like poems written on each page. In the opening of the book, there is a wonderfully written note about Margaret Wise Brown, the trunk of work, and the fact that before she died Margaret was in contract with three different record companies to create children songs. Only two songs of this twelve were ever published, so the Virginia-based duo Tom Proutt and Emily Gary teamed up to give the song lyrics lively and fun music, that is surprisingly quite enjoyable and not annoying in the least. (Except for perhaps the bunny song which has been stuck in my head for days. But it is enjoyable to listen to and every time I think of it I do picture Molly Idle’s adorable bunnies. So that is a win, I think.)
I am not quite on board with the book being called “Goodnight Songs” as the songs in this collection focus on nature and significant parts of the particular season’s change. This would be a very long bedtime book, which, go for it if that is your thing. But I think the songs and their pages have a lot to say any time of day, and the music especially requests some good movement too.
Each of the songs is beautifully paired with a fantastic picture book illustrator’s creation for that specific song. The illustrators are Peter Brown, Floyd Cooper, Leo Espinosa, Blanca Gómez, Molly, Idle, Elly MacKay, Dadu Shin, David Small, Bob Staake, Satoe Tone, Frank Viva, and Mick Wiggins. Each spread is positively stunning. I was captivated by every page, spending time reading, listening to and being enveloped by the tiny world created on each spread. And I love that the pages work individually, but somehow really come together collectively for the whole of the book. It isn’t particularly jarring to turn each page, knowing that you are encountering a new “story” of sorts and a seasonal quality.
My daughters and I actually greatly enjoyed “reading” this book together, which for us the first time meant that we listened to the music, each girl came and stared at the accompanying page for as long as she liked, and then they moved on with play and dancing to the song while their mama sat and nerded out over the supplementary info in the front and back of the book. I already mentioned the intro to Margaret in the beginning and there is also a page devoted in the very back to the musicians and how they envisioned each song and the instruments that represented it. But also in the back is where the book really got me. There is a small blurb about each illustrator including how they created the song spread and some of their thoughts behind the illustration too. I love this kind of information!
This book really has a lot of hats to wear when it comes to reading it. You can totally sit down and just read each page, as you would another poetry collection or short story book. And the music works on its own too, being lovely and playful and completely dance-worthy. But you can also do as we did, and listen to the music while you read, making yourself study the page until the end of each song. You design your own approach to the book, and I honestly really love that. I am a firm believer that picture books are rarely just for children. This book is a true collection of masterpieces of illustration and poetry worth delighting over at any age. Every generation brings a different thought and memory of a season, and in actuality, this collection does a marvelous job at displaying that with so many different hands coming together to create the book. I truly think you’ll be enchanted by this collection. Happy fall everyone and happy reading!