At Break of Day

Posted October 23rd, 2012

At Break of DayHow do you retell a story that’s been told a thousand times? How do you make it new, and fresh? Those were the questions I asked myself when I got the idea to write a creation story. But I didn’t get to that point on my own.

I hadn’t been sitting around thinking about writing any kind of creation story. It was nowhere in my file folder of ideas. But one of my publishers asked if I could apply myself to the retelling of a story from the Old Testament. They were thinking more like David and Goliath, or Noah and the Ark, but no bells went off in my head at the thought of those well-told tales. The creation story, though, was something I believed I could sink my teeth into. In other words, it was the greater challenge, and, as I’ve said elsewhere, I love a good challenge!

I opened the Bible and reread the creation story in Genesis, making notes as I went along. Apart from Genesis, I remembered several references to the creation story throughout the New Testament, as well, most especially in Hebrews. There it says “God…in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.” In other words, the Son, Jesus, was involved in the creation. This idea is reiterated in other books of the Bible, as well.

The key, then, to telling this old story in a new way, was perspective. I decided to write this story from the points-of-view of both Father and Son.

At Break of Day

A detail from one of Paul Morin’s mixed-media paintings in At Break of Day.

My original text was more than matched by the textual, mixed-media illustrations of Paul Morin. He spoke life into each scene by creating mass, and depth. In one painting, for example, he imbedded lace in the shapes of flowers and butterflies, which he then painted over in brilliant colors. He laid pieces over a tree, as well, and used lace in the leaves to remarkable effect. This kind of texture lent great weight to the story.

At Break of Day made the CCBC Choices list, as well as the CBC Not Just for Children Anymore list. Reviewers said of the final product, “A lovely and poetic recasting of the Biblical creation story in a modern spirit…” (Kirkus) “Overall, a vigorous addition to the Creation canon.” (Booklist) “…I find myself once again prowling the children’s section, looking for magic, for lightening in a bottle. I may have found it in At Break of Day.” (Bookpage)

This title remains, to this day, one of my favorite picture books. It’s hard to choose a passage to share with you, but this one is special to me. Have you read this book already? If not, enjoy!

At Break of Day

The son could hardly wait for the fifth day to begin. At
dawn, he headed for the seashore. Then, while his father
watched, the son filled the seas with sharks and seals, starfish
and stingrays, whales and walruses, and short-finned and
long-finned creatures that glided through the clear water

The father nodded his approval. Then the son whispered,
and the word he whispered became a feather, and the
feather traveled on the warm wind of his breath.

In an instant, the whir of wings beating the air echoed
through field and forest, and scores of birds soared and
skimmed and swooped across the sky. The birds looked
left and right but could not find the place where the wind