The Shortest Day
Susan Cooper and Carson Ellis
In many cultures light is celebrated as a symbol of continuing life and so it is here.
Many years ago Susan Cooper wrote a poem to perform in recognition of the winter solstice, telling how people used to celebrate the changing year by ‘singing, dancing, / To drive the dark away.’ Candles were lit and homes festooned with evergreens, fires burned all through the night ‘to keep the year alive.’ …
Until ‘the new year’s sunshine blazed awake.’
All this is shown in Carson Ellis’ gorgeous gouache paintings for this festive picture book.
We then move forward in time to see modern people with arms outstretched embracing the rising sun, before moving indoors where their home is decorated with a Christmas tree, an evergreen wreath and a mantelpiece on which stand a menorah and holly; carols are sung and children dance.
Both words and pictures powerfully evoke the changing season of then and now, presenting a superb alternative to the often trashy glitz and sparkle that is part and parcel of the festive season in a 21st century location such as the UK.
(There’s a final author’s note wherein Susan Cooper fills in the background to her poem, after which the poem – originally written for the theatre – is printed again.)