A Memory of Summer Nights

My poems for kids start with a memory.  I am trying to capture a feeling, an image that has stayed with me and influenced the way I experience life for over half a century.

They say that this is a visual age.  I am sure my books suffer from a lack of illustrations.  RARA Covers using family

For covers, I have often gone into my own photo files, and pulled up those images that captured a moment:

 

 

  • A daddy and daughter sharing the delight of a picture book
  • A toddler in a footed sleeper, snuggling on Grandpa’s lap, listening to a bedtime story
  • A five-year-old braving the high slide on a sunny playground

But my poems themselves remain without illustration.

That is not to say I don’t have vivid pictures in mind, that I would love to see accompanying them.  But I have to wonder, don’t my readers have their own images that “click on” when they read my poems?

One reason I love reading is that I get to be part of the creation, along with the author.  Sure, the author may describe the characters, but I get to fill in the details of how they sound, and what they look like.  Scenes an author tells me about get painted in my mind.  No movie or television show – or illustration – will ever be as real to me as the Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe I know as I read Rex Stout.

But, they say, it is a visual world, and children’s books must be full of vivid, colorful pictures, or they will not sell.

What do you think?  Do I need to splurge and collaborate with an illustrator?  I love illustration that does the same thing I am trying to do with my books:  let the reader see themselves and their loved ones in the work.

An Example

Here is a poem from from Bedtime Read-Aloud, Read-Along Rhymes: Quiet Poems for the End of the Day.

Campfire at Ted and Ida w Kay, Joanne, Ida, Kathy, Nancy, Andrea, Billy Jo, marshmallow It is based on memories of those long summer days that finally wound down into bedtime.  Here’s a picture of my family, maybe fifty years ago.  It brings back visiting my great-uncle and aunt’s home on the Umpqua River near Roseburg, Oregon, and all the cousins, grandparents, uncles and aunts.  But I decided to set the poem in the backyard of the child, with a simple appreciation of the beauties of nature on a summer night, including the moths that were attracted to the back porch light.  I think it works for for a bedtime poem.  My question is, does it NEED illustration?

Summer Night

Oh the sights and the sounds of a summer night!
When the long, hot day finally gives up its light.
And the star-bright sky seems close enough to touch.
Is there any other time that I love this much?

Somewhere in the dark, high above the trees,
A hoot owl flies on nights like these.
And the chirp of the katydids hiding in the lawn
Will sing me to sleep until the dawn.

I wish I could stay outside all night,
With the sky for my cover and the stars for my light.
But I think of my room and my cool, fresh bed
And I know that I’ll sleep inside, instead.

With a flashlight helping us to see,
Daddy walks up to the house with me,
Where the moths crowd around the back porch light.
It’s time for all sleepy things to say, “Good night.”

oOo

Looking forward to your comments.

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About Susan Call Hutchison

A self-publishing author, editor and blogger. I have years of experience working one-on-one with readers and translators of English, at all levels of competence. My books include the Read-Aloud, Read-Along series and Mrs. Middlejoy's Church Mouse Adventures chapter books. I run an internet business from my home in Idaho and I tutor students learning English as a foreign language. Fostering literacy is my passion. I work to help families read, learn and enjoy creative time together.
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10 Responses to A Memory of Summer Nights

  1. I love this Susan and being a visual person I could picture an image in my mind for each verse. It reminds me of the book Good night mouse, it had such lovely words and pictures and I remember my two at a certain age loved reading a book about going to bed, when it was time for them to go to bed.

    This would make a beautiful picture book with stunning images to match the dream like quality of your words would be a delight to read aloud to any child.

  2. Sheryl says:

    I can picture the images in my mind. I think that part of the beauty of the poem that we can each insert a bit of ourselves into the poem. The images I pictured were influenced by the rural locale of my youth and the suburban locale where I raised my children.

    That said, I agree with Minuscule Moments that it would make a stunning picture book.

    • Thank you, Sheryl. I also grew up in “the country,” and my daughters were young in Provo and Salt Lake City, Utah. I wrote this poem when I was living in Los Angeles, so you know it’s expressing nostalgia for my rural roots.

      Maybe someday I’ll find that illustrator who can turn my words into picture books! Thanks for your encouragement.

  3. Lovely poem Susan, it made me feel so cosy and so happy, I felt like a little child again. It is warm and full of love, I was able to translate each verse through a canvas of images that I painted in my mind as I read through..simply beautiful.

    • Thank you, Nadine! I’m glad it seems to stand on its own without illustrations. I spent some time yesterday looking for stock photos to illustrate a free PDF I am creating of six of my poems, and I was disappointed with the effect when I placed them next to the text. I have such a love of good illustration, and the photos just didn’t cut it. It almost seemed to degrade the poems — not that they are such high-fallutin literature — but that illustration is a lot more than just finding images that “fit.” I notice on your blog that you are a poet, too, and I look forward to reading more of your work!

  4. Flora Poste says:

    Ohoh, Susan,I am so sorry: I missed your beautiful post! I thought I would get an automatic email for a new post and will try that again, must have done something wrong;0(
    But what a wondeful poem! I did not grow up in North America but our sons did and your poem is all about a cozy, lovely summer night with your family. It makes me happy of good memories when reading it!
    When it comes to illustrations: follow your heart. I would say, you are the writer , it will only ‘work’ when it is right for you. Just play with it and see how that feels for you.
    Thank you so much for sharing and I will keep a better eye on your blog!

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