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Singing Away the Dark Hardcover – Apr 12 2011


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Singing Away the Dark + When You Were Small + How To
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 36 pages
  • Publisher: Simply Read Books (April 12 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1897476418
  • ISBN-13: 978-1897476413
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 1 x 23.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #89,753 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Quill & Quire

It seems a parental (and grandparental) duty to inform children about the daily hardships of the past. These conversations often make note of the long-ago, mile-long, snowbound walk to school (usually uphill in both directions). The B.C. duo of author Caroline Woodward and illustrator Julie Morstad have taken this cliché and transformed it into a delicate, brilliantly perceptive picture book about a rural child’s long journey to the school bus.

When the steely blue darkness of a country­ winter morning becomes too frightening for a six-year-old girl, she begins to sing. Singing helps brighten the darkness, quiet the howling wind, and makes the cattle blocking the road seem less beastly. All ends happily when she sees headlights appear in the darkness and is embraced by the warmth of the school bus.

The frightened young girl in Singing Away the Dark finds comfort in her kinship with the natural world, a response that is both authentic and poetic. As her unease grows, she says, “I see a line of big, old trees, marching up the hill. ‘I salute you, Silent ­Soldiers. Help me if you will.’” There are no Disney moments with smiling, waving foliage, just a child finding an ally in nature. Similarly, her singing does not take the form of a contrived, triumphant musical ­number. Instead, the girl seems to be murmuring to herself, unselfconsciously lost in her imagination.

Morstad’s art further adds to the story’s charm with the vintage, cozy feel of a 1950s Christmas card. The images are part Clement Hurd and part Julie Flett, combining the style of a classic bedtime story with an acute awareness of the delicacy and fragility of nature. This quietly stunning tale empowers all young children – whether they get to school by snowshoe or SUV – to overcome fear with imagination. – Shannon Ozirny, a librarian in Port Moody, B.C.

About the Author

Caroline Woodward grew up on a Cecil Lake homestead in BC's Peace River region where all the children are brave and tough and where she really did walk a mile to her school bus stop, uphill both ways. Julie Morstad is the award-winning illustrator of When You Were Small and its two sequels, Where You Came From and When I Was Small. She is currently working on two new projects she is both writing and illustrating.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By David G Gnass on Sept. 16 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My daughter loves this book almost as much as I like reading it to her. It is so wonderfully written and illustrated.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Don't worry that it's not good enough / for anyone else to hear Dec 29 2010
By E. R. Bird - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The range of different going to school books varies wildly. This is understandable. After all, the act of attending school is one of the first moments of autonomy a child experiences. This is particularly true in parts of the world where children are trusted to get themselves to school without the constant hovering aid of their parental units. In America, much of the school year takes place when the days are short and nights are long. As such, "Singing Away the Dark" presents a going-to-school concept that I've not seen really done before. In this case, the fear of going to school isn't what the child will encounter once there. It's about the journey just to get to the bus itself. The fear in this book is far deeper than just a mere anxiety over classmates and teachers. It's fear of the dark and what it holds and hides, and how one small child can make that fear go away by simply putting her fears to song.

"When I was six and went to school, / I walked a long, long way . . . / I leave my house, so nice and warm, / on a windy winter's day." A country girl takes off one day on her regular trip across a wooded snowy mile in order to reach the school bus. The problem? The darkness of the pre-dawn is more than a little frightening. Fortunately the girl has learned that if she sings loud and strong her fears will go away. That doesn't mean that there aren't other things to watch out for as well (bulls, etc.) but in the end she sees the safe lights of the school bus ahead and she's made it for another day.

Ms. Woodward's story appears to come from her own youth of growing up in British Columbia's Peace River region. Her little bio at the end of the book says as much, though she has the wherewithal to include a tongue-in-cheek, "where all the children are brave and tough and where she really did walk a mile to her school bus stop, uphill both ways." There's just the slightest hint of Lake Woebegone to that statement, I think. Now Ms. Woodward's writing itself is spare and to the point. So much so that it took a third reading for me to realize that she'd written this story in rhyme. I see that lack of notice on my part as a good thing. Clearly her wordplay feels as natural as speech if the reader doesn't stumble over any awkward rhymes or phrases in the course of the tale. In fact, you get so into the story itself that the rhyming pattern is the last thing on your mind. "The cattle block the road ahead. / The bull is munching hay. / I softly sing to calm myself / and plan the safest way."

I have a special appreciation for illustrators that can capture that strangest of visual concepts: nighttime snow. It has a quality to it that daytime snow lacks. A couple picture books are particularly good at showing off the harsh contrast between black skies and white grounds. "Owl Moon" by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr would be the first example to come to mind. The far more city-centric, but no less pitch perfect, "Snow Day" by Komako Sakai is another great example. Morstad's illustrations are tricky because unlike those other books she has to present early morning darkness without so much as a streak of dawn. In essence, she has to capture that rare quality of distinguishing between night and day without relying on light to make up the difference. She does this mostly through the degree to which you can make out the heroine's clothing. In spite the dark, you can always make her out without difficulty. It gives you the sense that she exists during daytime hours, then.

Not that the images don't work on other levels as well. Since we are reading what is in essence a memory, Morstad had to decide whether or not to make the book look historical or contemporary. She's gone with historical, but very little actually dates the story. The little girl's clothes aren't obviously dated, since hats and scarves and mittens for kids rarely go out of style (and nothing as ridiculous as legwarmers pops up either). The girl's yellow lunchpail has a fine retro feel to it, but not so much that it stands out. As for the school bus itself, those magnificent methods of entling transportation have changed almost not at all since I was a small fry myself. They are the eternal yellow harbingers of schooltime. Instantly recognizable. Forever unchanging, no matter where you are.

It's the combination that makes "Singing Away the Dark" stand apart from the pack. Very few books about six-year-olds can show kids that age act in realistically brave ways. Yet a story about a girl who has to walk a mile in the dark and the snow all by herself is going to hit a chord. Even better is the fact that the book offers a solution to her problem: How to confront early morning scary darkness? The solution is practical and may inspire real life kids to do the same. Beautiful on both a visual and a literary level, Morstad and Woodward are a match made in heaven. If you're looking for going-to-school books outside of the usual fare that also happen to be easy on the eyes, this is one of the finer offerings out there. A real treat and a great little title. Well worth discovering.

For ages 4-8.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Fortitude Dec 19 2011
By Debnance at Readerbuzz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The brave main character of this little tale tells the story of her mile-long walk to the school bus stop each morning. She meets many perils, including walking in the darkness, through the forest, among many dangerous animals. But she doesn't allow herself to be afraid; instead, she sings the dark away.

It is revealed in the information about the author that she actually did walk a mile each morning to the bus stop. By reading this story, children can see a strategy for dealing with difficulties in a positive way and will see fortitude modeled in a lovely way.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Absolutely Timeless Dec 15 2011
By Jennifer Ironside - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
"Singing Away the Dark" is one of the most beautifully crafted picture books I have ever read. It has such a timeless quality to it, it's hard to believe it was only just published in 2010, rather than being a long-time classic.

The story follows an imaginative six-year-old girl walking through the woods one winter morning to reach her school bus. She overcomes many obstacles along the way - a barbed wire fence, a creepy forest, a bull munching hay and howling winds. But by singing to herself, she gains the courage she needs to overcome them.

As I grew up in the countryside, this book really resonated with me. The words and the illustrations perfectly captured the simple joys that exploring fields and forests can bring. I felt like I was travelling back in time to a world I had almost forgotten about, and for that I am thankful for this book.

I give "Singing Away the Dark" 5 out of 5 footprints in the newly fallen snow.

I originally posted this review at [...] If you love children's books, please visit anytime.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Hurray Jan. 10 2014
By Joy S - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Another book to read with my granddaughter. My grandson liked it as well. An interesting, well told story and the illustrations were great also.
0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I like the illustration Jan. 9 2013
By Dad of 1 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is gorgeous but the story is boring. Love the picture of the Mom, blue jeans! I gave it as a gift though.


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