Thursday, October 12, 2017

Windows Julia Denos – Illustrated by E. B. Goodale (Candlewick Press, 2017)

Julia Denos – Illustrated by E. B. Goodale (Candlewick Press, 2017)

By Lawrence Kessenich

The best books for small children take a simple concept and play it out in a way that isolates the subject and strikingly illustrates it, thereby focusing the child’s attention on it—and, for that matter, the attention of the adult reading it to the child. Windows does this with the subject of windows at dusk in an urban setting—in this case, Somerville, Massachusetts. (Although the area is not identified in the text, anyone who knows Somerville will recognize some of the stores and buildings, and the authors identify it in their bios.)

At the outset of the book, an unidentified child (I believe it’s a girl, although there is an androgynous quality that may be intentional) looks out the window as the sun fades and sees
…little windows
lit up like eyes in the dusk
blinking awake as the lights turn on inside
a neighborhood of paper lanterns

She puts on her red hoodie and takes a walk through her neighborhood with her white dog (these colors contrast nicely with the city as its colors dims over the course of the book). As the child passes apartment buildings and stores and an abandoned house, the book’s narrator talks about some things one might see during a walk at dusk:

You might pass a cat
or an early raccoon
taking a bath
in squares of yellow light.

The “yellow light” is from a window, of course, one of the many kinds of windows one might see on such a walk:

One window might be tall,
with curtains drawn,
or small,
with a party inside.

An enjoyable two-page spread in the middle of the books shows no less than 18 windows with the kinds of things one could see through them as they are lit up inside in the evening. One can easily imagine a child being fascinated by what’s in each of these windows—and being prompted by the reader to find specific things in them.

The palette of the illustrations throughout is deep gray-blues contrasted with the oranges-turning-to-purples of the sunset—and also contrasted with the lit-up windows. It’s a very pleasing palette that unifies the book, providing a sense of mystery throughout. The colors darken as the sun goes further and further down behind the horizon, and the child ends her walk with the most familiar window of all:

Then you arrive home again,
and you look at your window from the outside.
Someone you love is waving at you.

and you can’t wait to go in.

The books ends with the child, having completed her adventure in the near dark, sitting cozily beside her mother, who is reading a book, while through a picture window we see the darkened city with its window “eyes” alight. 

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