Samuel Taylor Coleridge once reminded “clever young poets” that poetry is “the best words in the best order.” Joyce Sidman’s poetry embodies this advice. In her latest book, Before Morning (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016), Sidman has chosen just sixty-six words and crafted them into a lyrical incantation full of love and longing.
A hallmark of Sidman’s poetry is her unexpected metaphors and images, and Before Morning is true to form. We’re instantly lured into “the deep woolen dark” where “the earth turns to sugar/and all that is heavy/turns light.” A deceptively simple rhyme scheme is almost “hidden from sight,” but adds to this book’s rhythm and beauty.
Beth Krommes‘s scratchboard and watercolor illustrations give a marvelous depth to Sidman’s poem and resonate in unexpected ways. Sidman herself has said that the illustrations were “a complete surprise.” Krommes, who has illustrated two of Joyce’s earlier books, Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006) and Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011), provides a setting that is instantly recognizable to readers: the hustle and bustle of daily life. Children will want to pore over the details of this family’s life and will find surprises on every page.
In her author’s note, Joyce explains that Before Morning is “an invocation—a poem that invites something to happen.” She goes on to encourage readers to think about their own wishes and find the best words for them.
I tried to find the best words I could to express how much I love this book. My wish is for Joyce Sidman and Beth Krommes to continue collaborating and creating stunning picture books like Before Morning.