top of page

How the Sun Was Brought Back to the Sky | drawn by José Aruego and Ariane Dewey

Updated: Jul 26, 2021

written by Mirra Ginsburg

Another day, another picture book power couple to admire. José Aruego and Ariane Dewey published over 60 books together. Both produced books as author and illustrator in their own right, but more often, they worked with a third party, such as regulars Robert Kraus and Mirra Ginsburg. The duo created their first children's book, Leo the Late Bloomer (for which Dewey is not credited), in 1969. However, even after divorcing in 1973, they continued to collaborate and maintain their creative partnership: Aruego drawing the line art and Dewey adding her vibrant, unconventional palette of watercolor.

One of their lesser known works is How the Sun Was Brought Back to the Sky. Adapted from a traditional Slovenian folktale, this story has the classic structure of creatures who meet and progressively join one another in pursuit of a common goal. Here, their bond is a shared concern for the sun and its whereabouts after a few days of dark, cloud-filled skies. It's an endearing story of vulnerability and looking after one another with persistence.

José Aruego's signature wiry lines and tranquil facial expressions give the animals an innocence and eager curiosity that welcomes the reader to join them. Their journey is leading them beyond anything they have known, yet they exude only confidence and certainty in their quest. The first of the animals, five baby chicks, start the chain of events, asking their mother, "Where could the sun have gone?...We'll go and bring it back into the sky!" The chicks' naiveté is mirrored in the others they pick up along the way, and they all seem to carry on as if this were a known and simple task.

As it turns out, finding out where the sun lives and bringing it back out to shine does prove to be as simple as that for them. Leaping from mountain to cloud to moon, they follow directions to the sun's house. A kind of dreamy trip that needs no explanation or rationale. When they reach the sun, they know instinctively what to do and begin their work helping her come out of hiding.

What I like so much about this book is how the animals, small and childlike, hold so much power in their belief that they can rescue something as enormous and powerful as the sun. They never doubt their capabilities or question whether the sun will accept their help. They don't wonder if it might be a "bad time" to stop by. I find this so refreshing and think love between friends should flow as freely as this, without hesitation and overthinking. I also think this story holds a subtle lesson in showing us that something as mighty and impressive as the sun still needs love and encouragement. The restoration of the sun back to her radiant self is all due to the animals seeking her out and letting her know she is loved and needed.

Aruego and Dewey so effortlessly capture the unconventional wonder of a child's imagination. The whimsical landscapes and unusual color placement are totally original. They joined forces again for one final book, The Last Laugh, published in 2006, and it looks as if they never skipped a beat. Their artistic roles remained consistent throughout their careers, and their playful aesthetic stands the test of time.

A few of the many José Aruego & Ariane Dewey gems:


bottom of page