First impressions are important, and "Still Before the Dawn" by Hilton Head Islander Jody Bennett Reichel will most definitely impress with its artful aesthetics, quality layout and binding.
Published by Lydia Inglett Ltd. Publishing, it is a joy to behold and a book you will pick up often for the encouraging words and peaceful images.
Your second impression might be grateful appreciation for publishers, authors and illustrators who still produce such a level of excellence, and all before you even open the book.
After reading the dedication, acknowledgements and "Welcome" section, you begin to understand the personal and passionate forces behind why the book was written.
Reichel is a lifelong Southerner who lives on Hilton Head Island with her husband and four children.
Her work has been nationally published by Dear Cards and her framed inspirational writings are sold commercially in stores.
This is her first book.
The inspiration and direction for writing it dates back many years, when Reichel was experiencing overwhelming concern for several of her family members. She sought help in the sanctuary of her screened porch, where she began praying every day in the early morning hours.
What followed was page after page of outpouring of her heart's burdens, poems of hope and reassurance.
She drew strength and courage from the daily devotionals, and her poems became the foundation of "Still Before the Dawn."
Longing to understand God's purpose for her poems and reach a wider audience, she compiled them into a book.
She was further encouraged by her terminally ill mother, her fountain of strength and faith throughout her life, to write the book.
The book is organized in chapters by topic including Encouragement, Friendship, Grief, Renewal and Thankfulness, with many more topics included, making the right words easy to find for readers in search of soothing words.
Beautifully rendered illustrations by Lucy McTier capture the watercolors of the Lowcountry.
Her depictions of sea turtles, dolphins, birds and softly muted layers of nature's beauty will make you wish you could crawl right into this book.
"Still Before the Dawn" is a perfect example of why "real" books will never be replaced by e-books.
It is a treasure, a balm for the imperfect human condition, and it would make an exquisite gift.
"Still Before the Dawn" is available at www.Starbooks.biz.
Glenda Harris of Bluffton is a freelance writer and editor, nature lover and aspiring novelist.