Lullabies and Night Songs
music, Alec Wilder ~ pics, Maurice Sendak ~ Harper, 1965
The first time I set eyes on Lullabies and Night Songs was at my son's godmother's house. She has a son who is a composer and currently attends college at Julliard, and my son is forever begging him to play a few ditties on their Yamaha upright. On one visit in particular, the son was away at school, so the boy's dad whipped out this book and started tinkling on the ivories. The moment I saw the cover, I knew I had to have it. Pure love at first sight, even before I opened the cover. One of the rare times when I paid more than a pittance for a book, copies of this out-of-print songbook can get pretty pricey, but I think I was able to find this UK edition on eBay for under $20.
Forty-eight lullabies that set to music poems by Lewis Carroll, William Blake, James Thurber, Robert Lewis Stevenson and more. The dedication in front says it all...
Many of these poems have been set to music for the first time, as they seem to ask to be sung as well as read. Some of the rollicking ones are not strictly lullabies, but aim to end the day with laughter and delight. These we call night songs. The collection does not pretend to be definitive; it simply celebrates the magic world of a happy, sleepy child.
A few selections...
Night by Lois W. McKay
My kitten walks on velvet shoes/
and makes no sound at all/
And in the doorway nightly sits/
to watch the darkness fall
Evening is a Little Boy by Francis Frost
Evening is a little boy/
with dark wind-ruffled hair/
Who skips the stars like stone across/
the darkling pond of air.
Infant Innocence by A.E. Housman
The grizzly bear is huge and wild/
He had devoured the infant child/
The infant child is not aware/
It has been eaten by the bear.
As with most everything Mr. Sendak touches, this oversized collection is a real treasure. If you are thinking of having your child learn the piano or even like to hum a few bars now and then, seek and ye shall find magic here in abundance.
A Very Special House
Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present
What Do You Say, Dear?
Pierre: A Cautionary Tale
Some Swell Pup
Let's Be Enemies
Chicken Soup with Rice
Outside Over There
I'll Be You and You Be Me
The Juniper Tree
Where the Wild Things Are
Seven Little Monsters
The Giant Story