The Shortest Day of the Year
Susan Cooper, Author
Carson Ellis, Illustrator
Candlewick Press, Poetry, Oct. 22, 2019
Suitable for Ages: 4 and up
Themes: Winter Solstice, Shortest Day, Seasonal Light, Legends, Holiday, Celebrations
Opening: “So the shortest day came, / and the year died…”
As the sun set on the shortest day of the year, early people would gather to prepare for the long night ahead. They built fires and lit candles. They played music, bringing their own light to the darkness, while wondering if the sun would ever rise again.
Written for a theatrical production that has become a ritual in itself, Susan Cooper’s poem “The Shortest Day” captures the magic behind the returning of the light, the yearning for traditions that connect us with generations that have gone before — and the hope for peace that we carry into the future.
Richly illustrated by Carson Ellis with a universality that spans the centuries, this beautiful book evokes the joy and community found in the ongoing mystery of life when we celebrate light, thankfulness, and festivity at a time of rebirth. Welcome Yule!
In this seasonal treasure, Newbery Medalist Susan Cooper’s beloved poem heralds the winter solstice, illuminated by Caldecott Honoree Carson Ellis’s strikingly resonant illustrations.
Why I like this book:
This breathtaking and contemplative book begins in silence with Ellis’s gorgeous gouache illustrations imagining how early humans began preparing for the longer nights. There is a pause. On page 5, Cooper’s poem begins, “So the shortest day came…” and draws readers into the seasonal cycles of light and the continuity of life, culminating in the joy of the Yule.
Cooper’s poetic book is for everyone (young and old) and is a non-Christian view of the joyful arrival of the winter solstice worldwide. People of all cultures will celebrate with song, dance, lights, decorations, and feasts with families and friends. And they will hold a hope for peace in their hearts.
Resource: Make sure you read the author’s information about the deeper meaning of winter solstice at the end of the story.
The Winter Solstice
is Saturday, December 21
. You may be interested in participating in the the Global Silent Minute
for peace and unity. The time on the East Coast of the US is 4 p.m., 1 p.m. on the West Coast. You can got to the Unity of Silence
website to learn more. You don’t need to join anything to participate.
Susan Cooper wrote The Shortest Day for John Langstaff’s Christmas Revels, where it is performed annually accross the country. She is the author of the classic fantasy sequence The Dark Is Rising (which includes the Newbery Medal winner The Grey King) and many other books for children and adults.
*Review copy provided by the publisher.