By Day, By Night
Written by Amy Gibson
Illustrated by Meilo So
Boyds Mills Press, 2014, 32 pp.
This picture book is a treat to share with preschool and kindergarten children. Author Amy Gibson and illustrator Meilo So celebrate how people all over the world are connected by highlighting similar activities that people accomplish throughout the day and night. The lyrical, rhyming text starts at day break with illustrations showing six children covered by a bright morning quilt. The children yawn and stretch to meet the new day. Multiple activities move readers throughout the day. The book and the day ends with text and illustrations that echo the beginning of the book by showing the same six children sleeping through the night covered with a quilt of stars and a crescent moon. The final page shows a young girl rising to meet the new day by opening her window to the morning. In the background a globe and world map are featured on her bedroom wall.
The text and illustrations combine to create a feeling of comfort and joy in the universal activities and lifetime movements that are shared around the world. “We’re carried first and swaddled tight. We toddle till we walk aright.” The colorful illustrations for this two page spread show mothers from different cultures carrying babies on their backs or fronts and then a father holding the hands of a baby just learning to walk. People of different races and cultures are shown across the illustrations with an emphasis on what we all have in common yet experience differently because of geographical variations.
Meilo So uses pencil and watercolor illustrations backed by white to set off her lively people. The illustrations are varied from spread to spread. Some are large scenes, others show small activities sprinkled across the page. My favorite pages read, “We learn to read; books open doors to worlds we’ve never known before.” The bright, detailed pictures expand and extend the words by showing seven different books–some open, some not. One red cover for Treasure Island features a swash-buckling pirate; another shows an open door that a student who is graduating strides through; a board book has babies sitting in front of it learning about counting and numerals; another shows the text in Chinese; and the open cover of another shows a library stamp.
One problem in the illustrations is that people from African countries are shown living in small villages, carrying loaded baskets on their heads. It would have been more representative of modern Africa to show scenes in cities as well as life in smaller villages. One colorful illustration of a Caribbean setting does show a fundraiser for a steel band with islanders in colorful, modern dress, enjoying a display of tasty foods for sale.
Read this book aloud to young children. It offers a wealth of opportunities for enjoyment and discussion. There is much to talk about and consider in the illustrations. For example, the pages that show boys and girls playing soccer will invite conversation about ways children play ball as well as how friends enjoy each other’s company. Pair this book with All the World (Liz Scanlon, 2011) or other texts such as Everybody Eats Rice (Norah Dooley and Peter Thornton, 1992) or Kids Around the World Celebrate: The Best Feasts and Festivals from Many Lands (Lynda Jones, 2010).
Born in the United States, Gibson has traveled extensively and spent several summers in South Africa. After college she became a teacher and wrote books to give students a better understanding of the world. Gibson has donated her proceeds from the book to The Global Orphan Project. More about her can be found on her website.
Meilo So was born in China, grew up in Hong Kong and went to school in the United Kingdom. She currently lives in the Shetland Islands. More about So and her work can be found at her website and at papertigers.
Marilyn Carpenter, Eastern Washington University