The Night Is Singing
by Jacqueline Davies
illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker
About the book:
Ready for bed, a little girl lingers, listening to the sounds of the night…
Hear the hissing
Soft as kissing,
From the radiator grate.
Hear the chiming
Of the hall clock striking eight.
This gracefully illustrated lullaby evokes that comfy-cozy time of night when sleep is still a blink away. Delightful and soothing, this book is a perfect addition to any bedtime ritual.
About the author:
Jacqueline Davies remembers lying in her bed, listening to the murmurs of the night…the settling-down sounds of the house, mixed with the outside noises and the giggles and whispers of her sisters. (All three girls slept in one bedroom.) These days, she enjoys listening to the nightly lullaby her own house sings as her three children, husband, and dog settle in for a night’s sleep. She’s also the author of The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon and Where the Ground Meets the Sky. She and her family live in Needham, Massachusetts.
About the illustrator:
Inspired by girlhood memories of camping trips and magical nights spent among the sounds and scents of the outdoors, Kyrsten Brooker has brought to these pages her illuminating trademark style. Mixing inventive collage and eclectic composition, her illustrations have appeared in books such as City Angel, Precious and the Boo Hag, They Saw the Future, and Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street. Kyrsten and her husband, John, live in Edmonton, Canada, with their two young sons, Nicholas and Kieran, and their springer spaniel, Sash.
- How did you get started writing for children?
I’ve been writing since I was a child. In kindergarten, I wrote my first book, The Sad Shape. (You can see that book and read the story on my website.) But I turned my attention to writing for children about the time I had my first child. In reading to him, I rediscovered all the children’s books I had loved when I was young. I also discovered for the first time all the wonderful books that had been written since I was a child. I was hooked, and I’ve been writing for kids ever since.
- How did you decide on the rhythm for this picture book?
The sound of the poem just came to me; I never really “decided” on it. I was looking for something with a lilting, flowing rhythm, and that’s the sound I heard in my head. (da-da-DA-da, da-da-DA-da, da-da-DA-da, da-da-DA) To me, it sounds like a waltz, and I love it that Kyrsten’s pictures have a flowing, swirling, dancing feeling to them. They’re just right for the rhythm of the poem.
- What is the most difficult thing about writing for you? What gives you the most pleasure?
The hardest thing about writing for me is simply finding the time. I have three school-age kids and a rambunctious yellow lab dog, so my days are pretty packed. But when I do find time to sit and submerge myself in the world of writing—ooh, it’s heaven. I love inventing people, imagining places, and making up conversations. I love it when something unexpected happens in one of my stories, and I’m the one who’s surprised. I love revising text to make it leaner, stronger, more original. Writing is a joy to me.
- How do you know when you’ve got a good idea? How many drafts do you usually write?
You know the old-fashioned way of testing spaghetti to see if it’s cooked? You throw it against the wall, and if it sticks, it’s done. Well, ideas are like that for me. A good idea is a sticky idea. That is, it sticks to my brain. I have lots of ideas for books. But I forget about 98% of them on the same day I think of them. But some ideas just stick to my brain. I think about them in the car, in the shower, on line at the grocery store, before I fall asleep at night. I wait about a month. If an idea sticks in my brain for a month, I know it’s worth pursuing. That’s when I start to write.
As for how many drafts I write, that varies widely. THE NIGHT IS SINGING required very little revision, maybe four or five drafts. It came to me all in one piece. But THE BOY WHO DREW BIRDS went through more than twenty-five drafts.
- What advice would you give young writers?
I have three pieces of advice for young writers. The first is to read as much as you can. Read all kinds of books: fantasy, poetry, science fiction, adventure, sports, historical fiction, humor. Read widely. The second is to write as much as you can. Don’t be afraid to try different kinds of writing: stories, articles, poems, essays, even novels. Experiment. Try and fail and try again. And the third piece of advice I have is to show your work to a trusted reader—a parent, a teacher, a friend—and ask for criticism. What do they like about your story? What do they think needs improving? Then work to make those changes. Ninety percent of good writing is re-writing. So do the work to make your good stories even better.
- How did you develop your unique collage style?
- Whose work has most influenced your own art?
- How did you decide the palette and textures for this piece?
- Which illustration in the book is your favorite?
- What advice would you give young artists?
What do you do before you go to bed each night? Are there any routines that help you move from wide awake to asleep?
Questions to consider:
- What is the narrator trying to avoid? Why?
- What types of things does she hear?
- Describe where she lives.
- Why can’t she get to sleep?
- In the end, what happens?
- Can you figure out the rhyme scheme in the book? Which lines rhyme? Which ones do not? Why do you think the author decided to write in rhyme?
- Why can’t the girl get to sleep? What types of things keep you up at your own house? Are there sounds that actually help you get to sleep? What are they?
- Describe the setting for the picture book. Is that a place you would like to live? Is it in the city? The country? What do you hear in one that you may not hear in the other?
- Do you sleep with a pet or stuffed animal? What does the girl sleep with? Does yours have a special name? What do you think the name of the girl’s cat and bunny are?
- What are the different sounds of the lullabies? What do the trees say? What about the wind?
- What is the girl afraid of? Are you afraid of them too? What do you do when you’re afraid?
- What does your Mama do for you when you go to bed? What’s your favorite part of bedtime? What sings you lullabies?
- Which illustration is your favorite? Why? Why do you think the illustrator chose the colors she did for the book? What colors do you have in your own room? Do they help you sleep?
- What types of things does the illustrator use besides just paint? What does this add to the picture? Does it make you want to touch it?
- Which part of the poem is your favorite (a section of a poem is called a stanza). Why? Which words are used in surprising ways?
The author, Jacqueline Davies, uses a poetic technique called personification throughout the picture book. This is when you pretend something like a tree or the wind can do something people can do. What do each of the following things do that is like a person:
night, sky, geese, cat, trees
Create your own personifications:
Make a list of ten things you would see on a walk in the woods.
Then, make a list of ten things you like to do on the playground.
Take something from the first list and make it do something from the second. Voila! You’ve learned personification. Draw a picture of your personification identifying what’s happening. (Makes a terrific bulletin board)
Can you create a tune to go with the words of the book? Try to sing the lyrics instead of just read them in a way that sounds good to your ear. Repeat the same pattern for each stanza.
Give the students soft instruments to accompany the reading aloud of the story. After reading aloud a line the students mimic with the instruments the same number of syllables that they heard. (Develops phonemic awareness).
Provide students with a wide variety of paper and other materials (like lace, fabric, buttons, labels, wallpaper samples, old cards, etc). Then, have students create a scene from their own home or neighborhood inspired by the collage art of Kyrsten Brooker. (Students may need to paint their own paper to get just the colors and textures they need).
Science of Sleep:
Brainstorm a list of questions about sleep that your students would like to learn and then together, discover the answers at the library. Here are a few to get you started: Do all animals sleep? Can some animals sleep on their feet? Why do people need to sleep?
Can you create a counting game from the book? Open any two-page spread and try to find one of something, two of another, three of something else to as high as you can get.