Dee-dee-dee, Dee-dee-dee, Dee-dee-dee

I love the chickadee.  It’s so small, so wonderfully cute, and it sings such a beautiful song.  When my toddler asks, “is that a chickadee?” when one comes into our yard, I am as excited and proud as when he took his first steps or said his first word.  “Yes!” I want to shout, knowing that somehow inside him that simple identification has touched his heart to the outside world, has connected him to his planet.

My son requested this book tonight.  He wanted to read the “book about the chickadee and the moon.”  And who wouldn’t?  The lyrics in this book (and I use the word lyrics purposefully—it reads like a beautiful song) are so perfect they seem to fly off the page, turning the sleepy-eyed parent bedtime reading into a dramatic performance.  Go ahead—try not to read this book without emphasis, whisperings, and emotion.  It’s not possible.

Title: The Longest Night
: Marion Dane Bauer
lllustrator: Ted Lewin
: Picture Book
Age: 0 – 7

Summary and Review:

The night is long, the sun has been away.  The animals in the forest want the sun to return, and each one thinks they have the power.  The moose is so strong–certainly he can bring back the sun.  But the animals are wrong, and the wind tells them so in a beautiful whisper.  Only the chickadee can bring back the sun, and so she does, with a song and the colors on the page.

Possible conversations to have with your kids:

The illustrations in this book are absolutely gorgeous–a deep but bright blue brings the winter time to life, makes us believe we are there, in the snowy forest with the animals, cold, waiting for the sun.  When the sun does finally come at the end of the book, the color almost takes your breath away.  Just reading this book with an infant or toddler will teach them about the forest.  Ask them what they see, what the animals are, if they can see the snow, the trees.

With an older toddler or preschooler, talk about the colors–why does the illustrator use blue?  Does it make it feel like the middle of a cold, dark winter?  What if the illustrator had used red or pink or yellow instead?  What would that have looked like?

But really, the beauty here lies in the words.  Really get into this book when you read it.  The voice of the crow—make it sound like a crow.  The voice of the wind—whisper it and draw it out like the wind.  Let your child hear the beauty of words on the page and how they can come alive when they are so well written (and so well read).

When your child is old enough to read some of the book with you, let them practice.  What does the crow’s voice sound like?  What about the moose?  The fox?  Read them in different pitches, tones, voices.  Channel your inner forest animal.  And then the chickadee?  Sing the song together.  What does it sound like?  Practice.

And our toddlers and preschoolers, they are small children—let them feel the power of that little chickadee, singing its sweet song and bringing out the sun.  The larger animals couldn’t do that.  Help them celebrate that fact.  Help them understand their own power.

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