The beloved American poet Robert Frost was a four-time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, and was nominated thirty-one times for the Nobel Prize in Literature. But it is probably this simple poem about a snowy evening written in 1922 at his home in Shaftsbury, Vermont that is his best known work. It has been memorized by countless school children (including me) and recited at countless funerals, such as those of former US President John F. Kennedy and former Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau.
P.J. Lynch has chosen to illustrate the poem with a female rider of the horse that goes into the woods, setting the outing on a night in which the moon’s light is reflected on the snow. This allows readers to visualize her journey in spite of it taking place on the “darkest evening of the year.” The art is cinematic and rich in sensory details; you can sense the utter quiet of the woods in these dramatic pictures, as well as the isolation and the cold.
Most of the double page spreads feature a couplet of the poem, but sometimes just one line is given for dramatic effect. For example, at the end of the poem, when the narrator says, “But I have promises to keep,” it is the only line shown and yet the double-page spread is full of meaning and innuendo.
P.J. Lynch, Ireland’s laureate for children’s literature 2017 and winner of multiple awards including two Kate Greenaway Medals and three Christopher Awards, has a distinctive, realistic style. He has reported that he loved the Narnia books by C. S. Lewis, and you can see a reflection of that influence in this book, with the magical and fairy-tale like paintings done in watercolor and gouache.
Evaluation: This gorgeous book adds so much dimension to Frost’s poem, and is bound to enchant readers 5 and over. It would make a perfect gift for the winter season.
Published by Candlewick, 2022