Abigail and the Birth of the Sun, Matthew Cunningham with illustrations by Sarah Wilkins, Puffin (Penguin Random House)
Each day this week I am posting a review of a children’s book published in Aotearoa with a pop-up challenge and a secret giveaway. You will have 48 hours to do the challenge!
I really love the start to this book:
As Abigail got ready for bed,
she thought of a big question.
It was so big she couldn’t think about anything else.
It was such a big and important question Abigail thought about it whatever she was doing. She was so worried the big question would keep her awake she decided to ask her dad. And when she asked him where the planets and the sun came from he told her they came from stardust just as she did.
Her dad pulled the curtains and they gazed at the night sky (and so did the sleek black cat!). As they gazed into the mysterious black with its planets and stars gleaming he tells Abigail about the birth of the sun.
I really like the way the story is based on facts but the characters in the story (the big old star, the cloud of stardust, the new Sun, a family of planets) have feelings. This is the story of how our solar system came into being – told simply and eloquently.
What stands out in the writing and the illustrations is both a sense of wonder and wondrous things happening. Things that you can put into words but things that are greater than words.
I think Matthew and Sarah must have had such fun working on this because one of the main ingredients in the ink and paint (I am not sure how they wrote or drew but you get what I mean) is love. A love of writing and love of painting and drawing. It shows.
I loved the middle bit – the bright drawings with little fascinations – and the tenderly crafted story with an equal dose of fascinations.
But I especially love the ending because it brings me right back to the way curiosity is such an important part of being human, and how curious questions can make a dad and his daughter share in the wonder of things:
“Daddy,” asked Abigail,
“if I am made of stardust,
does that mean I can shine
like a star too?”
“You will shine brighter than
all of the stars in the sky.”
Abigail falls into a sweet sleep but by morning she as a new question – let’s hope there will be a sequel.
Ah, I feel like I have filled with gleam and good feelings reading this beautifully-produced book. I just love it.
Matthew lives with his wife and daughter Abigail in Wellington. He is an historian with a Doctor of Philosophy, and he has published all kinds of history writing. This is his first picture book for children. At kindergarten he wrote ‘The Clock’ but he didn’t know how to follow lines and said it looked more like alphabet soup.
Sarah was the middle child of seven who dreamed of being an explorer. She loved dreaming and drawing so she became an illustrator, an award-winning illustrator (because illustrating involves dreaming and drawing!). She lives in Wellington.
FRIDAY POP-UP challenge:
Let’s write sun poems.
1 Hunt for sun words and similes. Draw a sun and fill it with the collected words!
2 How many sun verbs can you find?
3 Do a test pot of similes – which surprises you?
4 Do you know or can find any fascinating sun facts?
5. Use your senses as you get curious. What makes you curious about the sun?
6. How does your poem sound as you read it?
7 Do you need to make up a word?
8 How will you set your sun poem out?
Deadline: 28th October 9 am
Include: your name, age, year and name of school
Don’t forget to put SUN poem in subject line so I don’t MISS your email.
Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Some favourite poems: I will post some favourites on 28th October. I will have at least one secret give away!