In that book flies a bird.

The library is a pleasant walk away from Kate’s apartment, but maybe not on a day when it’s over 90 degrees and the library didn’t open until 1:00. So Kate drove the two of us while Raj was napping, and that way we could completely focus on finding the titles we really wanted, most of which we had researched together online the night before.

We were looking not for ourselves, but for a toddler. Kate’s eager to fill her child’s life with the most enriching books, nourishing not only because of the pictures or the text but also for how they provide an experience for the adult and child to share — and that they both enjoy. We’ve been talking about what makes a child love a book, and why we don’t like some of the traditional favorites. But even in cases where we can’t quite put our finger on what is “wrong” with a story or the illustrations, one reading to find out is more than enough time to give to it.

Today the bag of 14 books we brought home included 6-8 board books, including a few by Sandra Boynton and Byron Barton (Mi Carro); there were many sweet options in this category, so many that we had to narrow our choices by such considerations as, “Let’s not borrow this book I Hear, because listening to a book is not an experience of hearing the birds, rain, or wristwatch that are pictured; why don’t we talk about sounds when we are actually hearing them.”

One charming picture book with fold-out pages is Papa, please get the moon for me, by Eric Carle. It’s a whimsical tale in which the girl making the request does get her wish, and she even plays with the moon as soon as it gets small enough for her dad to bring it down the ladder. Raj seems to focus on the pictures of the moon in his story books, and I always love to return to the more poetic depictions of the moon when reading or singing to children.

A title that popped up on my screen was The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson, with pictures by Beth Krommes. It appealed to me right off, and the majority of reviews were positive, but some people said it was too dark and that several children had not liked it. As luck would have it, the small local branch had it available so I was able to see it for myself very quickly; now it’s my latest favorite picture book.

It has elements of Goodnight Moon, but the verse form of the traditional “This is the Key of the Kingdom.” And though it is about nighttime and there is little color on the pages, it is about light even more, somewhat in the way that the novel All the Light We Cannot See is radiant with love and hope.

The moon is shining in the sky when the scene opens, of a bed, where a violin and a book are lying. Only one line describes each scene.

In that book flies a bird.
In that bird breathes a song…
all about the starry dark.

Every week at Vespers we pray “Thou appointest the darkness and there is the night,” and it reminds me of how C.S. Lewis wanted to name his space trilogy something about Deep Heaven, because space sounds cold and unfriendly, whereas heaven is full of angels. God created the night and He is in it. This book seems to be about the sun (shining on the moon, even at night) and the electric lights in our houses, but when you come to the end and read about “a home full of light,” you realize that it is also about the human love and care — and that is only an overspilling of the love of the Holy Trinity — undergirding it through the night, making it the most restful place that is both safe and bright.

9 thoughts on “In that book flies a bird.

  1. Children’s books are something I know very little about — at least, I don’t remember many of my earliest books. That may be because of my mother’s preferred method of choosing what to read to me. She said when I was a baby, or still very young, she read whatever was at hand: Reader’s Digest condensed books, poetry, Ladies’ Home Journal, Shakespeare. Once I got to school we moved on to literature specifically written for children, but apparently it was the experience of being read to that I first loved. Interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was quite impressed with your mother’s non-method and great influence — certainly it had wonderful results! I read your comment to Kate when I was there at her place but didn’t get around to thanking you for it at the time.

      I think a lot about reading and being read to; I don’t remember being read to, and I asked my children if they remember, and mostly they don’t. This is really shocking, considering how much we read, even past the time when the older ones could read themselves. I wonder if it is because the story was everything – the story, the words, the language, went into their consciousness and mixed all together and formed their minds and hearts, without them having to pay attention to the reader or retain that aspect of the experience — or any of it, really, in their active memory.


  2. What an interesting selection of books. I take my hat off to the illustrators of children’s books for their contributions can make or break a story. Eric Carle was a favourite of my children oh so many years ago!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t take the time to read novels etc. I love to spend that time in The Bible. But with the incredible art work and condensed no sex and bad language- I may have to make it to the children’s section! Thought of you when I found this.

    “Must time go so fast?”

    O, time! Be slow! It was a dawn ago I was a child dreaming of being grown; a noon ago I was with children of my own; and now it’s afternoon -and late- and they are grown and gone. Time, wait! Ruth Bell Graham

    Liked by 2 people

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