Sunday, May 13, 2007
Back in Print...
In a lot of ways (although I'm not sure anyone will be able to tell) "When the Sky Is Like Lace" is the book I had in my mind when I was writing "Inside the Slidy Diner" (Tricycle, 2008).
Not because the two books are really much alike, but because "When the Sky is Like Lace" doesn't really tell a story, so much as it describes a place, time, or state of mind. Because it leans on language, and depends on quirks and oddities rather than plot. Which isn't that common of late.
So many picture books today rely on EXACTLY what we've come to expect from picture books. Which is to say... whatever has most effectively been selling. And so, much like pop songs, picture books are full of exactly what we expect to find in them-- animals who act like people, children who learn lessons, precocious babies, sweet mommies and spunky kids. Blah blah blah.
And while I may not have succeeded in avoiding these tropes/traps myself with "Slidy", "When the Sky Is Like Lace" most surely succeeds in avoiding the pitfalls of the usual fare.
It favors unexpected turns, but doesn't get wacky for no reason. Most of all, it chooses its words very carefully. It sets a tone, creates a world within our own. As a kid I really really wanted to believe in this world:
You will also find that, on bimulous nights when the sky is like lace, the grass is like gooseberry jam. It's not really squooshy like jam, because then the otters' feet would slurp around and snails might drown. It only smells like gooseberry jam. But if you walk barefoot, it feels like the velvet inside a very old violin case.
If you plan to go out on a bimulous night when the sky is like lace, here are some rules you must remember:
Never talk to a rabbit or a kissing gourami.
If your nose itches, don't scratch it.
Wear nothing that is orange, not even underneath.
And -- if you have a lucky penny, put it in your pocket. Because, on bimulous nights when the sky is like lace and the otters are singing and the snails are sulking and the trees are dancing and the grass is like gooseberry jam, it's a good idea to be prepared.
Words by Elinor lander Horowitz, and insanely lovely pictures by Barbara Cooney. It was out of print until recently, but they've brought it back. Get a copy before it disappears again!