32 Books in 32 Days – Day Eleven: The Longest Night

Each day leading up to the April 17 announcement of the 22nd Annual Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today, we feature

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Children’s Literature Finalist,
The Longest Night
Marion Dane Bauer
Ted Lewin, Illustrator
HOLIDAY HOUSE

Comments from Marion Dane Bauer on her book The Longest Night:

“The idea for The Longest Night began with a question. It occurred to me one day to wonder why it is that the longest night of the year is the first day of winter, not the middle of it. Wouldn’t it seem to make more sense for the longest night to fall in the middle of winter? And then I heard a climatologist talking, and he gave the explanation. He said that it is the cold and snow locked into the earth that brings on and holds the long cold of winter, even though, following the winter solstice, the sun is a bit more present each day. And I thought, ‘How true! The first day of winter is really the beginning of new light, even of spring. It is only our hearts that have to wait to thaw.’ And that idea eventually grew into this story of a small bird who calls back the sun.

“I never have specific images in my mind when I write. I am a word person. And I am glad to wait to discover the vision the artist will bring to my story. But in this case I did see the natural world that surrounds us, in all its lushness, all its beauty; and that’s what I hoped the illustrations would convey. Ted (Lewin) couldn’t have done that more beautifully.” – Marion Dane Bauer

After seeing the sun go down and disappear, the animals and birds of the woods are worried the sun has vanished forever. The winter night seems awfully long and cold, so they all decide to find the sun and bring it back to the sky. However, only one of them has the power to do so.

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Marion Dane Bauer has won many awards including a Newbery Honor, a Jane Addams Book Award, and the Kerland Award. She is also on the staff of Vermont College’s Writing for Children and Young Adults program.

Reviews:

“Author Bauer effectively evokes the moody darkness of a cold, snowy winter equinox through alliteration, anthropomorphism, and succinct sentences. Illustrator Lewin’s pictures force the reader to squint through the darkness to see the woodland animals.” – Minnesota Book Awards Judge

“This stunningly crafted tale, written in the language of the storyteller, realistically pictures, in words and paintings, the phenomenon that is the winter solstice. (‘The snow lies deep./The night is long and long./The stars are ice, the moon is frost,/and all the world is still.’) Although the characters in the almost poetic text are animals—crow, moose, fox—they express the apprehension felt by ancient peoples as they anxiously awaited the sun’s return following the longest night of the year. Amid the snow, darkness, and bitter wind, each of the creatures boasts that it will get the sun to return, but the wind replies, ‘Not you… Not you.’ Surprisingly, the wind chooses the tiny chickadee to wake the slumbering sun with her cheery song – ‘Dee-dee-dee.’ And with the song/of one small bird/and the sun’s answering smile/the journey toward spring/begins.’ ” – Susan Scheps, School Library Journal

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Award winners will be announced at the 22nd Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 17, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, in downtown Saint Paul. The opening reception begins at 6:30 p.m.; followed by the awards ceremony at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40 and are available by clicking here or calling 651-222-3242.

Have you read The Longest Night? What are your thoughts? Did you vote for the Readers’ Choice Award? We welcome your comments!

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