About the Holiday
There’s still time to celebrate one of the best months of the year—Picture Book Month! If you’re doing holiday shopping, don’t forget to add picture books to your list for the kids in your life. With so many picture books to choose from on all kinds of topics, there’s sure to be a perfect book for each child. You know what they say—and it’s really true: A book is a gift you can open again and again, and today’s story is one kids will love to hear all through the year.
Thanks to Megan Litwin and Clarion Books for sharing a digital copy of Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.
Twinkle, Twinkle Winter Night
Written by Megan Litwin | Illustrated by Nneka Myers
Readers are invited along for a walk on a crystal-clear, moonlit snowy evening as a father and child discover how “nightfall sets the world aglow.” As darkness deepens overhead, and the stars twinkle over a white-blanketed field, “the sky sparkles like a chandelier.” Passing a pond where families are skating while snowflakes fall, “dusting glitter on earth’s face, / dressing trees in coats of lace,” the pair wave to a friend and then make their way into town.
Here they come upon their village shimmering with magic as strings of white, gold, and colored lights outline rooftops, connect building to building, and create a glistening spectacle of snowy patches. Windows glow with candles glittering in wreaths for Christmas, menorahs for Hanukkah, and kinaras for Kwanza. The flame of diya lamps for Diwali joins them. In the central square, a brilliant star shines forth as people gather around, enjoying all the sights, sounds, and tastes of the winter holidays. Father and child join in on this “Beaming, gleaming, lively sight— / twinkle, twinkle, winter night.”
On their way home and to bed, they pass a picture window where they can see a mom and her two kids hanging Christmas decorations, a fire flickers in the fireplace. In the woods, a deer and her fawn doze, curled up under a small tree, its branches covered in sparkling snow. In town, kids are tucked under covers but can’t resist going to the window for one last look, for “twinkle, twinkle, winter night. / Everywhere you look . . . / there’s light.”
You know that special glow you feel during the winter when the moon and stars seem to shine more brightly; the hearth or wood stove glimmers with extra warmth; snow and ice twinkle when caught in a beam of light; and, around the holidays, neighborhood streets wink on with glorious displays? The glow you wish could last all year long? Megan Litwin captures that feeling in her lovely Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night not only for the winter months, but all year around. Litwin’s graceful rhymes and rhythms immerse readers in winter’s quieter atmosphere and slower pace and invites them to really look at nature, at their communities, and in their own homes to find the light and magic there. Throughout the story, Litwin reintroduces her title phrase strung with glittering new adjectives, reminding readers of just how ardently we embrace the exquisite beauty of light. Her flowing storytelling is a joy to read aloud, making this a perfect book for bedtime or quiet story times.
Nneka Myers’ stunning pages seem to actually dance with the twinkling of stars, the glittery shimmer of snowflakes, and the breathtaking radiance of decorated homes, shops, and streetscapes. Images from Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, and Diwali can be found in Myers’ illustrations of the town and its winter festival. Her rich purples, blues, and fuchsias set off the sparkling lights, patches of snow, and wide smiles of the townspeople as they mingle in the square welcoming and celebrating winter’s diverse and poignant holidays.
A book that shines with an appreciation for the beauty of light, nature, and community all around us, Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night would quickly become a favorite on home bookshelves for snuggly reading throughout the year and is a must for school and public library collections.
Ages 4 – 8
Clarion Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-0358572046
Discover more about Megan Litwin and her books on her website.
Meet Megan Litwin
Megan Litwin holds a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature from Simmons University and is a former teacher whose lifelong work is to grow lifelong readers. Megan lives in Massachusetts with her family.
I’m excited to be talking with Megan Litwin today about her debut picture book, her journey to publication, and how parents can instill a love of reading in their kids.
Hi, Megan! Congratulations on your beautiful book! Your writing in Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night really shimmers with so many gorgeous images of light. Was there one spark of inspiration for your story, or how did it come about?
Thank you so much for those kind words! I certainly agree that illustrator Nneka Myers has created the perfect shimmery, glimmery world for readers here! As for the story, there absolutely was an initial memorable spark. It happened on a cold, dark December drive. One of my sons was newly captivated by all the light he saw—everything from the snow to the moon to the houses decked out for the holidays. It was like the whole world was suddenly made of magic. He kept calling out things he noticed in his tiny toddler voice as we drove and repeating the words “twinkle lights” over and over. I realized I wanted to find a way to showcase this bright and beautiful time of year, with the focus not on any one particular holiday, but on the shared magic of these lights.
Can you tell readers a little about what your journey from that first idea to having Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night published was like?
LONG. That December drive was eleven years ago! I had the initial spark and a first draft poured out of me immediately. But it was not yet the story I wanted to tell. It didn’t have the magic I had seen and felt. It was too long, too wordy, overly descriptive. And so . . . I let it sit. I revisited it off and on over the years, but only around times of great inspiration . . . usually around this time every year! The idea never left me, but it wasn’t until 2016 (when I joined SCBWI) that I began working on this manuscript with the serious attitude it takes to publish. I took it to my first critique groups, I took it to conferences to get agent/editor feedback, I cut and polished and rewrote with a keener eye and ear—and 25 drafts later, it went out on submission. Even then, it was not quick! This manuscript went all the way to acquisitions with another publisher before landing, very happily, with Kate O’Sullivan at Clarion/HarperCollins (then Houghton Mifflin) in 2020.
You previously worked as a classroom teacher and reading interventionist. Can you talk about these positions? What did you love best about being a teacher?
I was a second-grade classroom teacher for nine years, and then spent time in part-time roles after my second son was born. I’ve worked as a literacy interventionist and a school library teacher, and I also helped our local school set up and run a take-home book program. I have always felt entirely at home in a school, and think I’ll always be a “teacher-at-heart.” In fact, one of the things I’m most excited about in this new phase of my book-centered career is being able to go into classrooms to do reading and writing workshops with kiddos.
How did you help kids not only learn how to read but to be excited about reading?
My years as a classroom teacher were especially magical because of the tight-knit community we built each year. In those early years of school, each classroom feels like a family. And a lot of deep connection can happen through books. We connected through our daily read alouds, huddled close together on the rainbow rug, and also through discussions about whatever we were reading, which were full of connections to our own lives and the books we had read before as a “reading family.” It was so important to me that my students saw books as magical. I wanted them to learn to read – but to love to read as well, because engaging comfortably in that process for your whole life opens so many doors. One of the best thank-you gifts I ever received was from a parent who wrote that I had inspired her daughter to be an “under-the-covers-with-a-flashlight-reader!” Nothing could make me happier.
Do you have any suggestions for how parents can instill a love of reading in their kids?
My best advice for instilling a love of reading is simple. Read together. Read often. Surround your kids with books of all kinds. Find books that bring you joy and read them alongside your kids. Modeling a love of reading and celebrating books is the first step.
And, since we’re talking about this, if anyone is interesting in more tips on growing readers, I include a section focused on that in my seasonal author newsletter that comes out just four times a year. It is called “Read, Write, Magic”—and you can sign up on my website!
What was your favorite type of book to read when you were a child? What kinds of books do you gravitate toward as an adult?
As a child, I loved books about animals and also things that had a healthy dose of magic or wonder. Some favorites were The Velveteen Rabbit, Animalia, and The Polar Express. I also loved series as I got older because I got to spend time in a world with characters I came to know and love. I was a big Sweet Valley Twins and Nancy Drew fan, and was (and still am) a Harry Potter lover. As an adult, I still enjoy ALL those same things! I would add that overall, the books I love best are ones that make me FEEL something. Or according to my husband’s observations, books that make me cry…
You’ve also published poetry in two anthologies: Friends & Anemones and An Assortment of Animals, released by the Writer’s Loft. Do the rhythms of poetry come naturally to you? What is your writing process once you have an idea?
Yes, those rhythms do come naturally, actually—even though I wouldn’t consider myself a poet! I’ve never studied poetry, and don’t know how to analyze it using all the proper terminology. For me, it is all about feel and sound. I think that is what initially drew me to picture books, way back when. Picture books have a bit of poetry and music and theater all mixed in. I like to say that I “play with words” for a living now. I pour words out onto a page for a first draft…and then I play. I cut, change, arrange, rearrange…over and over and over. I count beats, I read it aloud. My kids say it looks like I’m talking to myself!
You have such enthusiasm for meeting your readers at book events as well as spending time with kids in the classroom through your three different school workshops designed for various elementary age groups. Do you have an anecdote from any of these events you’d like to share?
I love interacting with young readers and writers at events and in schools. Kids are the best! I love the way they see the world, their honest language, and their willingness to try new things.
One of the workshops I offer schools is about poetry, and the idea that to write a poem (or most anything), you need to play with words. And at the end of the session, I always wrap up the same way I began—by asking them to finish the sentence “Poetry is (blank).” It is fun and illuminating to see how their answers differ from the beginning. One of my favorite moments was when a first grader simply said, ‘You were right. Poetry IS fun.” He looked both surprised and excited by that thought. I couldn’t have asked for a better end to the day.
What do you like best about being a children’s author?
Reading aloud to kids! That was always my favorite part of the day when teaching. And now I get to do that all the time as an author—this time with words I wrote myself. It’s WILD!!
What’s up next for you?
I am thrilled to be launching the first of two books in an early reader series with Penguin Young Readers in February 2023. Dirt & Bugsy: Bug Catchers is about two sweet boys who love to catch bugs.
Each book features backyard adventures and lots of cool bugs—including a bit of backmatter for bug-loving readers. Shauna Lynn Panczyszyn did a fabulous job illustrating, and I can’t wait for newly budding readers to hold these books in their hands and to feel confident (and happy) while reading them. Kirkus recently gave it a great review, saying “Bugs, friendship, and fun—what more could burgeoning readers want?” Hooray!
I also have a second picture book just under contract. Stay tuned…
Thanks, Megan, for this amazing chat! It’s easy to see how much you love kids and books—and connecting kids to books! Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Nights certainly has that magical touch! I’m sure readers can’t wait to discover Dirt & Bugsy: Bug Catchers as well! I know I can’t! I wish you all the best with Twinkle, Twinkle Winter Night!
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