CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 14 . . . . March 18, 2005
"It's always darkest before the dawn." Usually, you hear the words uttered in grim desperation in a last-ditch attempt to stave off despair. But not here, not in Dawn Watch, a picture book telling of a child's stint on dawn watch with her father on a sailboat crossing of vast Lake Superior. The book sees the words differently, both literally and beyond. True, when the night is black and the air is cold, the immensity of being small and alone threatens to overwhelm. Just beyond the fear, though, under the darkness and inside the stillness, lies the promise of adventure and mystery. Imagination says anything can happen during the dawn watch, and with the saving certainty of imminent daybreak, anything can be allowed to happen.
Pendziwol provides the details that anchor the adventure to the experience of a young girl and narrates the night-time journey poetically in prose that is beautiful in its own right. It is, however, the illustrator Debon's interpretation that turns a charming account of a night at sea into a study of contrasts and emotions. Debon's paintings put the reader squarely into the dark with all its attendant promises and threats. With dark blues and greens and blacks, the colours -- or rather non-colours - of the night at sea dominate as Pendziwol talks us through the bleaker hours of the watch; this is when imagination tends to run wild. As the night draws away from the approaching dawn, so do the colours begin to shift away from black, through a soft purple, to the radiance of pink and orange. The stillness gives way, too, to the noises of an approaching day, in parallel with the approach of the shore. Contrasts in scale heighten the drama -- the girl and boat are tiny when alone against the immensity of the sea in the darkest hours but are shown larger when other people and concrete tasks bring the focus back to the familiar. The magnificence of the sky and sea are ever present, awesome yet reassuring. A range of emotions surfaces in the hours of the dawn watch - and Debon takes us through them all.
Cora Lee is a Vancouver, BC, writer and editor.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal
use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any
other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.