Author: Edwina Wyatt
Illustrator: Gaye Chapman
Publisher: Little Hare (Hardie Grant Egmont)
Comments: At first glance, In the Evening is a simple tale about friendship. Two squirrels, Oscar and Charlie, both take in the “sounds and sights and smells” and the “shapes and shades and shadows” of evening. Although they live on opposite sides of the road from each other they are yet to meet. Every evening for a week Charlie tries to make friends with Oscar, but his waves, smiles, gestures and invitations are all rejected. Repeatedly, Oscar doesn’t know what to do. Finally Oscar hides himself away and shouts at Charlie to leave him alone – so he does. When Oscar ventures back out one evening, Charlie is no longer waiting for him. With newfound bravery Oscar crosses the road to Charlie’s house and says hello. And so a friendship is begun, in the evening.
At a deeper level, this picture book is quite rich and complex, largely due to the expertise of illustrator Gaye Chapman. Chapman is an award winning Australian contemporary artist, who holds Bachelor and Masters degrees in Visual Art and Design as well as a PhD in Contemporary Art: Painting. Wyatt’s text could have been illustrated with any type of human or animal character, in any city setting. However it is Chapman’s choices that make this book something special. Her imagined landscape of urban tree-apartments is whimsical, yet just familiar enough to be recognised by young readers.
The sounds, sights, smells, shapes, shades and shadows of evening are visually depicted in multilayered illustrations which consist of “loose washes of transparent watercolours and tea over graphite and coloured pencils and spatterings of masking-fluid stars, rain and snow” (CiP page). Additional information included on the CiP page at the end of the book states that Chapman’s artwork is inspired by Emily Dickinson’s poem There’s a Certain Slant of Light (c.1861), and “the atmospheric paintings of JMW Turner, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.” A quote from Dickinson’s poem is a clever inclusion at the beginning of the book. Such peritextual features should not be overlooked.
All up a lovely early childhood text that is equal parts simple and complex. Recommended for families.
Parent Tip: This is a sweet story to share at bedtime, and provides an opportunity to talk about how we make friends.
*I received a review copy of In the Evening courtesy of Hardie Grant Egmont. No payment was received for review and all comments are based on my own professional opinion.