Sunday Morning

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by Judith Viorst and Hilary Knight (originally published in 1968; Atheneum, 1992)

Okay. Do you know this one? It had escaped me for far too long until a recent trip to Books of Wonder. I’ll never look at 9:45 on a clock again.

I’ve been asking a lot of authors and illustrators recently about their story heroes, whether they are fictional or creative inspirations. If I were to ask myself that same question, Judith Viorst would top the list.  Here’s why.

(And after a little more research on Hilary Knight, I’d consider him a hero as well. Do I still want to be making books for kids at the age of 90. Yes.)

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I am a fan of picture books in first person, because if you have ever spoken with a kid, you know that they are natural storytellers. And on top of that, they speak with an urgency and expertise that is unique to them.

Grownups don’t do that. Grownups wouldn’t think of a story starting with something as un-interesting as a knock to their routine.

Kids do. Judith Viorst captures that.

The parents in this book directed these boys to not come out of their room until 9:45. Presumably, they’ve been out on the town which is why they were late in the first place. Sound familiar to grownup-you? But what about kid-you?

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There is a lot to do. The text throughout this passage of time is one-hundred-percent-perfect.

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I love how these comic-style panels add to the passing of time, to the excruciating tasks that have to be done as the big brother. And Hilary Knight’s silhouettes, save for that striking blue and two expressive pairs of eyes, allow any of us to picture ourselves in the middle of this slapstick and simple sequence.

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This entire page.

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This pillow sentence is one of my favorites, and I love the cutaway of Mom upstairs, wondering about the time and the morning and the cat and the boys. It’s both everyday and tense, all at once.

That’s what I love in a picture book, a sort of heightened normalcy. A storytelling immediacy that is also timeless. And pictures that welcome you right into the book.

I love Sunday mornings at 9:45.

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