Sun Bread

11May10

Written & Illustrated by Elisa Kleven

Sun Bread is an entertaining picture book that is written as a rhyming poem. It begins with,
“The wind it whooshed, the snow it whirled,
the rain streamed down; it sloshed and swirled
And washed the colors from the world.”

In this little animal inhabited town, the winter blues have gotten the best of everyone. The entire book is full double-bleed spreads. The illustrations contribute to the story as well by showing the reader how disgruntled the inhabitants of the town have become. We can see siblings fighting, indications that some animals are getting sick with colds and flu’s, and an overall general perturbed attitude towards the seemingly endless winter and relentless snow.

A baker (who’s also a dog) decides to bake a load of bread that looks like the sun to bring a little sunshine into the gloom and doom of the winter. The whole town ends up enjoying this delicious sunny feast, and in their delight “the real sun woke up from its sleep!” The town rejoices and we seem a dramatically different scene as the people’s hearts are warmed by the sun’s presence.
Children would really enjoy exploring the details within the illustrations. Little signs with text are included on every page for added little nuances – for example, a newspaper called the Daily Sunless Times featured in a dispenser comments on the conditions of the town on several different occasions. One of my favorite mini-scenes features a mother bear scolding her child for writing on the window “I hate rain 😦 & snow” with a marker.

Kleven’s  illustrative technique is one that uses mixed media collages and is very detailed oriented. Kleven uses vivid and vibrant colors, fully packed illustrations on many of the pages, and captures the energy of life within her creations. In this book, I could recognize the use of little cut-up doilies throughout the illustrations. I thought this was interesting because doilies always reminded me, too, of snowflakes, and I think that was Kleven’s intention by incorporating them in this book about winter.

Thematically, the message of this story isn’t really about the literal event of baking the bread, but rather about sometimes making our own sunshine and enjoying the company of others. This theme is supported by a quote the other cited on her website by John Muir – “”The sun shines not on us but in us.”

The idea of making a baked good of some variety to combat adverse weather conditions reminded me the book by Patricia Polacco’s Thunder Cake where a little girl and her grandmother prepare a thunder cake as a storm approaches to help them keep their minds off of the scary lightning. At the back of this book, like Thunder Cake, a recipe is included to make the baked good of the story’s namesake.

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