In Print

Words to dream by: "Chappaquiddick Lullaby"

By CK Wolfson - August 17, 2006

"Chappaquiddick Lullaby, a song of Martha's Vineyard," by Stacy Elizabeth Hall, illustrated by Judith Pfeiffer, with CD by Kate Taylor and Taylor Brown. Island Moon Press, 2006. $19.95.

With a writer seemingly lurking behind every rosa ragusa, there is no lack of self-published Island-based books - especially children's picture books. Often they are rightly referred to as vanity books; the authors' and illustrators' ambition and inspiration being more realized than their craft.

But with "Chappaquiddick Lullaby," author Stacy Elizabeth Hall and illustrator Judith Pfeiffer have combined to produce a polished work that needs no qualifier. Simple, direct lyrics that can stir a child's imagination; softly colored representational illustrations of cunning pets, children, mermaids, fish and fantasy; it stands on its own as a delightful addition to a child's library.

"Remember that day when the clouds filled the sky,
And we wanted to go to the bay?
Grammie gave you some brooms and then just before noon,
You had swept all the clouds all away!"

"Chappaquiddick Lullaby" is just that - a prelude to sweet dreams in lyrics, music and illustrations. The three-part CD included in the back of the book, contains Kate Taylor's soft rendition of the lullaby accompanied by Taylor Brown, the author's reading of her lyrics, and Taylor Brown's instrumental arrangement of Ms. Hall's words and music.

Ms. Hall, who also authored an adaptation of "The Legend of Katama" (Island Moon Press), is daughter of native Islander Claire Nickerson Hall, former Edgartown librarian, and Sonny Hall, who taught at the Edgartown school. She spent summers on Chappy, and in 1992, wrote the words and music on which the book is based. Photos of her children were used not as portrait studies, but as models for many of the illustrations. She recalls a picture of her son at three, who sat still for close to an hour so as not to disturb a Monarch butterfly, that became one of the paintings for the book.

Maybe it takes someone with Vineyard roots and sensibilities to be able to selectively draw from all the Island ingredients that create a memorable summer retreat: boats and bluefish, Flying Horses, even the Bass and Bluefish Derby. But Ms. Hall finds the balance to create a work that is not so specific as to exclude those who have not had a Vineyard experience. Chappy becomes any place that holds warm memories and safe harbors.

"Close your eyes, close your eyes,
Chappy holds you in her arms.
Close your eyes, close your eyes,
She'll keep you safe from harm."

Much credit for the book's success goes to Islander Judith Pfeiffer. Her appealing illustrations not only enhance the words, but go beyond them to create page after detailed page of all those things that reveal the good-night world through a toddler's perspective. Her tender depictions tell their own stories of sailing beds, flying fish, parties with butterflies and puppies. The pages are dotted with carefully rendered shells, tiny dancing piglets, terns, cattails with whiskers, and pinkletinks.

And there's more: Each illustration includes a hidden picture of a wampum bead to search out (wampum is explained in detail in front of the story). A larva-to-butterfly drawing, incorporated in an illustration, adds an educational aspect. Author Hall explains, "Every page has something to count or find. It's a snuggle-up kind of book."

And we agree.

"Chappaquiddick Lullaby," story hour and book signing, with illustrator Judy Pfeiffer, Friday, Aug. 18, 10:30 am, Kiddo's, Tisbury Marketplace, Beach Road.