Tomorrow is a Chance to Start Over is a picture book with accompanying CD, both by Vancouver singer-songwriter Hilary Grist. They tell the story of a dream journey in the tradition of Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen or Eugene Field’s “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.” Trying to drift off to sleep amid the noise of a big city, siblings Ira and Isabelle set sail on an imaginary adventure over the sea “to somewhere quiet” – a many-coloured island. While exploring the island, a robin shows them how to fly, and as they sail for home, assures them that if they send their “dreams out to sea, the waves of the ocean will bring them to me.”
In addition to a reading of the story with atmospheric accompaniment from keyboard and strings, the CD includes nine original songs and an arrangement of Brahms’ “Lullaby.” This is soothing bedtime music, and the lyrics, which often seem to refer to adult relationships, need not be subjected to much reflection or analysis. In the text of the story itself, greater clarity of language and detail, and less relentless patterns of rhythm and rhyme would make for a more memorable story.
Grist’s illustrations take the form of photographs of clay figures of Ira and Isabelle set against colourful, evocatively blurry backgrounds. In one photo, the pair jump off a cliff into apparent nothingness, an alarming image that is perhaps not the wisest choice given how prone young children are to nighttime fears.
While the book and accompanying music are a collaborative multimedia effort of considerable skill, both elements would have benefitted from a clearer focus on the young audience, and a refinement of the story’s language to match the visual and musical components.