The Song of the Nightingale

h1 March 29th, 2022 by jules

(Click spread to enlarge)


Tanya Landman’s The Song of the Nightingale (Candlewick Studio) will be on shelves here in the U.S. next month, and it’s a beauty. Illustrated by Laura Carlin and first published in the UK two years ago, it bursts with color and life.

This is an original creation story, one about how it is that the nightingale “prefers the coolness of evening and the stillness of night,” not to mention how it obtained its “beautiful golden voice.” There’s a clue to all of this on the book’s opening and closing endpapers as well as the front and back of the dust jacket. (I’m looking at an F&G anyway and assume there will be a dust jacket.)

The story opens with a time when the earth is young. It is full of color; we are treated to two vibrant spreads that prove as much (as well as a glorious title page spread). But look closely to see that the animals have no color. They are “dull and drab,” and the painter decides to fix this. This painter is unseen, but we see the results of her work. Animals line up for their colors, and she opens her paint box. She paints dots on ladybugs, spots on butterflies, “sharp suits” on penguins, pink feathers on flamingos, and more. She tires of patterns — “persnickety patterns” to give you a sense of the book’s delightful language — and paints swaths of solid colors on the likes of crocodiles and kangaroos. (The spread featuring the blue whale is worth the price of admission alone.)

The painter is done and about to head home when a small bird flies out of the shadows. It had hid during the cacophony of the animal line-up, and now it wonders what color it will be. I won’t spoil the ending, but the painter’s decisions around the colors on her brush for this bird are part of its origin story in this satisfying creation tale.

Carlin’s colors sparkle, and her velvety, atmospheric illustrations — rendered in watercolor, acrylic, and pencil — are like entering a dreamscape. She strikes a tone of mystery and wonder and plays with scale, perspective, and composition in exciting ways. Here are some spreads so that you can see for yourself.



“She called all the animals together ….”
(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


“As the morning went on, she slicked stripes on zebras and
painted pentagons on giraffes. …”

(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


“The painter went back to work. …”
(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


“A stream of golden notes tumbled from its throat and floated into the night. …”
(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


(Click cover to enlarge)


* * * * * * *

THE SONG OF THE NIGHTINGALE. Text copyright © 2020 by Tanya Landman. Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Laura Carlin. First U.S. edition 2022. First published by Walker Books Ltd. (UK) 2020. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Studio, an imprint of Candlewick Press.

2 comments to “The Song of the Nightingale

  1. LOVE, love, love those illustrations — somehow the very splashiness and spatter of the watercolor and the spikiness of the pencil-strokes leads to this whole… idea of the animals actually coming into being as you look at them. Very creation-y, and really neat.

  2. Really incredibly beautiful. Thank you for sharing it!

Leave a Comment

Should you have trouble posting, please contact Thanks.