There is an art to good lullaby-picture books, those with soothing rhymes well-suited for bedtime and very young children. It should appeal not only to children but also to parents, given its potential for multiple readings. It must include language, in terms of both flow and meaning, which is satisfying to hear. And the best ones, it seems, remind the child listener how very much he or she is loved. Such books bring child and adult alike into a place of quiet contemplation and great comfort, rewarding for everyone involved.
Julie Hedlund’s newest picture book, My Love for You is the Sun, is such a book. Hedlund’s lilting, first-person text (“My love for you is the sun … It shines on you when we’re apart”) includes comforting metaphors, just right for sending a wee one off to sleep.
Hedlund compares her love to the wind, wiping away tears and blowing kisses; to a river, constant and guiding; to a tree, giving shelter during fearful moments; and much more. The illustrations, rendered in clay, were created by Nashville artist Susan Eaddy, whose pictures feature various animals and their offspring, creatures which come from water and land. A human mother is featured in the opening and closing spreads only as a shadow, the silhouette of a woman cradling a child. These parents of all kinds are a tribute to nature and life itself.
Though this year a handful of notable picture books have been illustrated in what can best be described as a sculptural technique—Yuyi Morales’s Viva Frida, for example, or Maggie Rudy’s I Wish I Had a Pet—it’s much more common for such titles to feature traditional, two-dimensional illustrations.
So it’s all the more noticeable when you run across an illustrator like Eaddy, who works with sculptures. Eaddy uses her own hand-colored clays, sculpting her illustrations and then photographing them in her home studio in Nashville.
In this book, she brings readers close to the action with her full-bleed spreads, as if we’re swimming right on the surface of the water with the ducks she’s created or hanging from a different branch of the same tree as the koalas. The way Eaddy manages to make a koala bear and her cub look as fuzzy as the real creature is a testament to her talent with clay. Water seems to move, and a horse’s mane flies in the breeze. Textured details enchant, from a frog’s spots to a duck’s multi-colored wing feathers. Her palette is rich, her lines graceful. The shading and lighting are also spot-on: the rising sun casts a shadow in a mother’s home, and a rainy day’s clouds linger heavily in shades of grey and black.
A welcome addition to the bedtime picture-book shelf, My Love for You Is the Sun is just right for drifting off to sleep—after, that is, you’re done oohing and aahing over Eaddy’s charming clay creations.
Julie Danielson, a former school librarian, blogs at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast and writes about picture books for Kirkus Reviews and BookPage. Her first book, Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature, has just been released. Danielson will discuss it at the Southern Festival of Books In Nashville on October 11, 2014, at 10 a.m. in Legislative Plaza Room 29.
Tagged: Children & YA