By Terri Schlichenmeyer
Each Sunday, your family has a routine they follow.
Everyone gets up early to the smells of a good breakfast that Mama makes; she serves all your favorites before you go to church to raise your voice and praise God. Church is also where people can go to pray. Some people get saved there. And in the new book “Early Sunday Morning” by Denene Millner, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, some people get a dose of confidence.
Sunday is the day your family sets aside for the Lord, which makes it pretty special because everybody puts on their best clothes, shines their shoes, and goes to church together. It’s your favorite day of the week, especially when something like a solo in youth choir makes it even better.
Singing is fun, and it’s easy to practice when nobody’s around. It’s also fun when it’s done with someone else but singing alone in front of a microphone, in front of the whole church? That’s scary, even though everybody tells you it’ll be okay. You’ll be looking extra-fine, you’ll have your hair in a beautiful crown, they all have good advice but still, you’re awfully nervous. Mama says “the angels will shout in Heaven” when you sing. Daddy says to “pick a spot in the church and sing to it like you do in the mirror.” Their words make you feel a tiny bit more confident.
Once you’re at church, just getting through Sunday School is hard. Not looking at the microphone is hard. Not watching the clock is hard, too. And then, it’s time to put on the choir robe you’ve brought from home and walk to the front of the church with your friends. It’s time to open your mouth and sing… but you’re still nervous.
Mama thinks angels will shout. Daddy reminded you to pick a spot and don’t worry. You remember all that, so you take their advice and a deep breath….
Dry mouth. A little shaky in the knees. That funny feeling just below the ribcage. Yep, that’s a case of the nerves alright, but “Early Sunday Morning” shows your child that things have a way of turning out fine.
And that can take time, as this story indicates. The main character, unnamed but based on author Denene Millner’s own childhood, is ready-not-ready to tackle what’s obviously a big honor; through the expressive artistry of Vanessa Brantley-Newton, young readers can see the character dealing with Mean Kids and wrestling with her fears, and that reticence is easy to identify with no matter what your age.
But wait – that’s not all. Millner also tells a tale of a tight-knit community, a close family, and their collective faith. Of course this book is about a little girl’s solo in choir, but you can’t discount the adults, who quietly support the story.
Children who love read-alouds will enjoy this book, while kids ages 8-to-10 may enjoy reading it themselves. It’s definitely a charmer; in fact, once you’ve read “Early Sunday Morning” once, you’ll be singing its praises, too.