cover image Not Every Day an Aurora Borealis for Your Birthday: A Love Poem by Carl Sandburg

Not Every Day an Aurora Borealis for Your Birthday: A Love Poem by Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $13 (24pp) ISBN 978-0-679-88170-4

Lobel's (Princess Furball) joyous, shimmering paintings pay homage to Sandburg's never-before-published poem of love and celebration with generous doses of warmth and whimsy. The poem describes a young man's efforts to capture an elusive aurora borealis to give his love on her birthday; simple in structure, Sandburg's lines build in urgency, revealing the magnitude of the suitor's wish to demonstrate the depth of his feelings. Lobel picks up on the imagery of the aurora borealis, which Sandburg describes as ""Slippery.... You think you have hold of it--but it is sliding away off your hands."" Love is, of course, just as intangible, an abstract notion Lobel ably conveys. Depicting the young man's struggle to capture the untamable--which she paints in vivid pastel hues of pink, yellow, green and blue--Lobel casts the northern lights as an immense sheet of rainbow-hued cellophane with a will of its own. Its hot white center is most apparent at night; when in a snowy clime, it reveals its blue side. The pictures within the small trim size alternately bleed and stand within frames of white, and Lobel's perspectives frequently are skewed and slippery themselves. Although the suitor's frustration with the mammoth task is evident and, in Lobel's depiction, humorous, the emotions are touchingly realistic. The final scene of the lovers, united at last, under a brilliant nighttime sky says it all--love makes people feel good, and so will this book. All ages. (Dec.)