The House in the Night
By Susan Marie Swanson
Pictures by Beth Krommes
The Caldecott Medal is awarded to the artist of the most distinguished picture book of the year. The House in the Night is the winner of this medal for 2009. When I heard this title was the winner I was unfamiliar with it, but eager to read it. Author Susan Marie Swanson wrote The House in The Night based on a traditional nursery rhyme. Of course this makes me want to search out this old rhyme which begins, "this is the key to the kingdom." Swanson's book begins, "Here is the key to the house." Swanson continues with a pattern of telling you about another object, relating to the previous one, all related to nighttime.
In an effort to be honest, I have to say that this book upon first reading was not impressive to me. Yes, I liked it, but it did not stand out. However, after reading it more than once I have come to appreciate the pattern of the writing more. My children were not enthralled upon first reading either, but this book strikes me as one that when owned and reread could become a familiar and well-loved comfort book through its gentle subtle ideas and pattern. It is worth reading, and thinking about. I even feel intrigued to use repeated readings to see if the story does indeed grow on my children!
In talking about this book, as with all picture books, it's important for us not to forget the pictures! Since the Caldecott Medal is awarded to the artist of the book rather than the author, in this case it feels especially important to dote on these lovely illustrations. They are lovely done in only the nighttime scheme of black, white, and yellow, using scratchboard and watercolor. To learn more about this interesting and beautiful technique you can visit illustrator Beth Krommes web page as I did. I love the unique look of her method! The illustrations are remarkable and worthy of an award. Especially lovely are the stars, which shine in such a lovely black, white and yellow way! I am very inclined to search out Krommes first book, Grandmother Winter, whose illustrations have an appealing gentle color and intricate snowflakes I want to just study! I hope I can track this book down.
Do check out The House in the Night if you haven't already, and tell me what you think! Next week I will tell you of the familiar nighttime book this winner reminded me of, Goodnight Goodnight, by Eve Rice.