The Definitive Guide to

The Shortest Day

Written by Susan Cooper and illustrated by Carson Ellis
Published by Candlewick Press
- Bookroo Rating
Goodreads Rating - 3.9 / 5.0
List Price
Target Age
Book Type

What Does Bookroo Think of The Shortest Day

“This gorgeously illustrated celebration of Yule is a better subject for deep study and reflection than a leisure book for children”

The Shortest Day marries Cooper’s renowned poem with Ellis’ gorgeous and mystical gouache illustrations to create a celebration of Yule that travels through time and place, shepherding traditions through the centuries. Even before the text begins, a symbolic grey man with the head of a sun ages and collapses to form a mountain and a setting sun while people bent with cold and work collect firewood. As the reader is transported from the past to the present, select repetition of scenes with long-ago and modern revellers, dancing forth from houses and holding hands to embrace the sun mirrors Cooper’s assertion of the link through time. The illustrations are shrouded in darkness, befitting the shortest day of the year and showcasing the beauty and power of light and those who protect it, although the grey sun man borders on the bizarre and detracts from the Christmasy feel of the remainder of the book. The depth and sophistication of Cooper’s writing is unusual in a children’s book, decreasing comprehension and requiring more effort from its audience than may be enjoyable in a leisure setting for the picture book audience.

What's The Shortest Day About

Publisher Summary

In this seasonal treasure, Newbery Medalist Susan Cooper’s beloved poem heralds the winter solstice, illuminated by Caldecott Honoree Carson Ellis’s strikingly resonant illustrations.

So the shortest day came, and the year died . . .

As the sun set on the shortest day of the year, early people would gather to prepare for the long night ahead. They built fires and lit candles. They played music, bringing their own light to the darkness, while wondering if the sun would ever rise again. Written for a theatrical production that has become a ritual in itself, Susan Cooper’s poem “The Shortest Day” captures the magic behind the returning of the light, the yearning for traditions that connect us with generations that have gone before — and the hope for peace that we carry into the future. Richly illustrated by Carson Ellis with a universality that spans the centuries, this beautiful book evokes the joy and community found in the ongoing mystery of life when we celebrate light, thankfulness, and festivity at a time of rebirth. Welcome Yule!

What Kind of Book is The Shortest Day

What Questions Should I Ask My Child

  • What do you know about Yule? Read the note by the author in the back of the book to learn a little more and then talk about your own Christmas traditions. Do you have any that center around light?

Trusted Reviews & Ratings

The Book Snob Mom
Mom, Avid Reader, Austen Fangirl

Beautifully written and illustrated, but not terribly exciting. Good for explaining the shortest day of the year!

English Degree, Former SAHM, Grammy Extraordinare
Mr. Staccato
Spent many carefree hours hunting clues with the Hardy boys and defending Redwall Abbey.
B is for Bookworm
Human Development Degree, Book-loving aunt

Book Lists That Include The Shortest Day

Book Topics › nature
Neat Children's Books About Nature
Book Topics › holidays
Children's Books About Holidays
Kids Book Club
Monthly. Curated. Delivered.
Get Started
As low as $16.95 / mo

Who Wrote The Shortest Day

Who Illustrated The Shortest Day

What Has Susan Cooper Said About The Shortest Day

Nothing yet! 🤷 You should let Susan Cooper know that we want more details from them about The Shortest Day!

What Has Carson Ellis Said About The Shortest Day

Nothing yet! 🤷 You should let Carson Ellis know that we want more details from them about The Shortest Day! Try tweeting at them on twitter (@cfellis) or messaging them on instagram (@carsonellis).

Susan Cooper's Book Dedication

For Jack

Carson Ellis's Book Dedication

For my parents

More Books From These Creatives

Home book
picture book
chapter book
The Grey King
chapter book
Silver on the Tree
chapter book
The Dark is Rising
chapter book
magic · monsters · siblings · adventure
Boggart Fights Back
pirates · reading
The Word Pirates
plants · imagination
Du Iz Tak?

Books You Might Enjoy If You Liked The Shortest Day

Snowmen at Christmas book
holidays · snow · Christmas · parties
Snowmen at Christmas
Fur, Feather, Fin—All of Us Are Kin book
nature · animals · diversity · being different
Fur, Feather, Fin—All of Us Are Kin
Refuge book
holidays · Christmas
Christmas Tapestry book
Christmas · holidays · World War 2
Christmas Tapestry
Great Joy book
homelessness · kindness · the nativity · Christmas · holidays
Great Joy
Nutcracker book
the nutcracker · Christmas · holidays · ballet

Book Details

ISBN 10:
ISBN 13:
Publication Date:
October 22, 2019
Text Details:
The book was typeset in Bauer Bodoni.
Illustration Details:
The illustrations were done in gouache.