Tag Archive: night


Night Children by Sarah Tsiang

The Night Children by Sarah Tsiang, illustrated by Delphine Bodet

When night starts to come and replace daytime, you should run home quickly before the night children come out. They wear the shadows and chase the fireflies. They are the ones who etch the frost on your windows into delicate designs. They can be carried on the wind high above the rooftops and disappear when you try to glimpse them out your window. They scatter leaves on the yards and stretch webs across the doorways. They are the ones who steal parts of the moon each night too. But you, you awake at dawn just as they are disappearing. And you bring the light of the day with you. If you try hard too, you will see the last of the night children as you head off to school.

Tsiang’s prose here reads like poetry. She uses such strong imagery throughout that she creates a nighttime world filled with magical moments. In her gathering darkness “light spills in puddles on the pavement” and the leaves the night children scatter are “like toys on the lawn.” Each page has some special phrasing on it that adds to the wonder of this book. The writing is rich and surprising, just like the night itself.

Bodet’s illustrations take Tsiang’s imagery and brings it fully alive. The art is filled with a play of light and dark. The puddles of light glow on the pavement as actual puddles catch the last of the sun’s rays. Stolen pieces of the moon glow in small hands as the night children dance across the roof with their prize. When the day comes, the light is warm and bright, glowing on the page and filled with bright color. The night colors contrast with that, more rich and deep and mysterious.

A poetic and lovely book, this is a luminous bedtime story. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Annick Press and Netgalley.

Night World by Mordicai Gerstein

The Night World by Mordicai Gerstein (InfoSoup)

In the middle of the night darkness, a boy is woken by his cat who clearly wants to go outside. She leads him out of his room, through the dark house where everyone is asleep, even the fish. Then the cat speaks, saying that it is coming and it’s almost here. The two go outside where the grass is dewy, the air is warm, and the sky is filled stars. He can only see shadows everywhere. Some seem to be flowers and others seem to be animals who are also out at night, a deer, an owl, a porcupine and more. The birds start to call about it almost being here and slowly through the trees comes a glow. Dawn arrives. The animals depart off to sleep. And color floods away the shadows as the day shines into a glorious morning.

Gerstein has written a radiant picture book. He combines a mystery of what the cat is talking about that lengthens and deepens as the story unfolds. As the boy stands outside in the summer moments before dawn, there is a feeling of safety thanks to the animals gathered around him to witness the dawn too. There is immense pleasure is seeing the sun rise and that is captured vividly on these pages. From the hush and quiet splendor of the darkness to the dazzle of the day, this picture book is a perfect way to celebrate nature and each new start.

The illustrations are paramount here and they are immensely lovely. The dark pages in particular which are lit by the barest of lights, the deep blacks and greys of night are allowed to show their richness. The eyes of boy and cat light the darkness alone until outside where the stars in the sky join them as well, shining high above them. And the dawn that breaks so slowly over the horizon, first a glow and then becoming a full day with clouds, pastel colors and light.

A celebration of dawn, this picture book may just have early birds waking up to see the light break over their own dewy yards. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

hoot owl master of disguise

Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Jean Jullien

A very hungry owl uses a unique approach to find his dinner in this silly picture book. Hoot Owl is a master of disguise, so he as he hunts in the dark night, he switches into different costumes to trick his prey. First, he sees a rabbit and so he puts on his carrot disguise. It doesn’t work to tempt the rabbit, so he moves on to a lamb. Hoot Owl disguises himself as a mother sheep to lure the lamb closer, but that doesn’t work either. Maybe a pigeon will be fooled by his clever birdbath costume? Nope. Then finally, he finds something to eat that can’t move away – pepperoni pizza! But will his waiter costume work?

The voice of owl as the narrator for the story is so much fun to read aloud. He is brazen, confident and sure that eventually his unique approach to hunting will work out. Never daunted by disappointment, he moves on to the next meal quickly and eagerly. Throughout, Hoot Owl expresses himself in metaphors and playful language. The night is “black as burnt toast” and his eyes “glitter like sardines” when they see the pizza.

Jullien’s illustrations are bold and gorgeous. The colors are bright and fun, the orange of owl popping against that black night sky. Hoot Owl’s personality shines on the page, his head peeking out from various angles as he hunts his prey.

This playful picture book is a great read aloud, bright, funny and impressive. Appropriate for ages 3-5. 

Reviewed from library copy.

shh we have a plan

Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton

The author of Little Owl Lost returns with another great picture book in his signature style.  In this book, four people head into the forest with nets at night.  There, they find a gorgeous red bird.  The littlest of them calls out “hello, birdie” but the others shush him and declare that they have a plan and show the cage they are holding.  They slowly tiptoe up to the bird, count off and jump!  But the bird flies up into a tree.  No worries, they have another plan.  And when that fails, another and another.  Finally, the smallest of them comes up with a plan that just might work, or maybe not.

This book is a stupendous read aloud.  The chipper, bright voice of the littlest of them, the hushed shushing from the others, the counting off and finally the shout of GO!  This happens again and again and will keep even the wiggliest of children paying close attention.  Even better, the little one is the one who figures things out and presents a solution.  Add at the end a wonderful twist to continue the story, and you have an outstanding picture book for sharing.

Haughton’s illustrations are created digitally but have the feel and texture of cut paper.  He uses beautifully deep blues throughout the nighttime story and then the bright red of the bird pops.  It also helps that the bird seems to live in its own beam of light, one that follows it as it escapes again and again.  It’s a clever use of stage lighting in a picture book.

A top pick for sharing aloud, this picture book is a dazzling dark delight.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

elsa and the night

Elsa and the Night by Jons Mellgren

This strange and beautiful picture book is translated from the original Swedish.  It is the story of Elsa who discovers the Night underneath her sofa one night just as she is counting the raisins in her cereal.  So she tucks the Night into a cake tin and gives him some raisins too.  Then she hides the cake tin down in the basement.  With the Night trapped, day continues on and one without end.  Finally, Elsa takes the Night out of his cake tin and starts to talk about how much she misses her best friend, an elephant named Olaf, who she met after a shipwreck.  The explains how the two of them lived together and that now he is gone.  About how she then moved to a lighthouse and stayed awake in the light night after night and has not slept for 30 years.  The Night listens and then goes with her to visit Olaf’s grave and finally to lift her up and take her to her bed to sleep.

Filled with poetry, the text in this book is powerful.  The story winds around, moving from the trapping of night into Elsa’s story of loss and finally to resolution.  It is not linear, but an exploration of emotions and grief.  It is a journey that is glowing, gentle and filled with lovely moments.  In particular when the Night goes around and gathers up the sleepy people along with Elsa, there is such tenderness and love in that moment. 

Mellgren’s art is modern and filled with bold graphical elements.  The cut paper art is complex at times and simple in others, playing with light and dark as well as different shapes.  the way that Night changes the page as he enters it is beautifully handled, his darkness spilling around him but able to be seen right through. 

This unique story is luminous and impressive and will make a great bedtime story for children and parents who enjoy foreign picture books that aren’t the normal bedtime read.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

daytime nighttime

Daytime Nighttime by William Low

A simple and lovely introduction to the creatures that children can see around their houses in both day and night.  The book starts with daytime and the question “What do you see in the daytime?”  The large images throughout show animals like butterflies, rabbits, beavers, and more.  In the middle of the book, a new question is posed about the nighttime.  Now the animals shown are bats, frogs, fireflies and raccoons.  The book ends with the final animal, a teddy bear held by a little girl as she falls asleep in bed. 

Ideal for toddlers, this book only has two full sentences and the rest of the text are single words that identify the animal on the page.  Adults can make it into a game where the child names the animal on the page.  The illustrations of the animals are large and vibrant.  They capture the feel of light and dark in a way has elements of both a photograph and a painting. 

A great pick for bedtime reading, this book will be enjoyed by very small animal lovers.  Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from library copy.

flashlight

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd

Released August 12, 2014.

The author of the fantastic Inside Outside returns with another wordless book featuring the same little boy.  Here the boy is outside in a tent at night and uses his flashlight to explore.  As he moves around, his flashlight shows white and color against the deep black and greys of the rest of the scene.  He locates his lost yellow boot, finds different animals out at night, sees plants and fish, and finds an apple to eat.  But then he trips and his flashlight goes flying until it is found by a raccoon who uses it to show the boy himself in the beam.  Then all of the animals get a turn with the flashlight until they lead the boy back to his tent.

I adore this book.  It is so simple with the pitch blackness of the page, the grey lines that show the characters and nature, and then that surprising and revealing beam of light that cuts a swath through the darkness.  One reason it works so well is that the rest of the page is not complete darkness, instead you get a feel of the woods around and the animals, but when the light does shine on them even more is shown. 

Boyd uses small cutouts on the page to great effect.  They reveal dens, flowers, small touches.  In their own subtle way, they too shine a light of attention on even smaller components of the illustrations.  They are a subtle but important part of the book.

Beautiful, dark and mysterious, this picture book is a wordless story of exploration and wonder.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

midnight library

The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara

The Midnight Library only opens at night.  Then a little librarian and her three owl assistants help all sorts of animals find the right books.  The library was quiet and peaceful until a band of squirrels showed up looking for a place to practice.  Luckily, the library had an activity room where they could play music without disturbing anyone else.  It was quiet again until it started to rain, but it was raining inside the library.  It was Mrs. Wolf crying about something she read in a book.  The librarian and her assistants helped her finish the story and reach the happy ending.  Finally, it was time to close for the night and there was one very slow patron who would not leave, but the little librarian solved that situation happily too.  This is a clever and creative look at libraries and their services in a way that children will easily relate to.

Kohara is author of several other picture books all done in her signature style.  Here she cleverly takes a library and adds mystery by making it open at night.  The addition of animals as patrons also creates an interesting twist.  I also appreciated a library being depicted as a place that you can play music.  So often the focus is on the quiet and solitude, but this is one happening library!

Kohara uses the colors on the cover of the book throughout the story.  The deep blues and blacks are enlivened by the bright yellow-orange that forms most of the background.  Her use of printmaking techniques creates thick lines with an organic dappling effect.  These prints feel like woodblocks but have lines that swirl and curve unlike most block prints.

Clever, lively and great fun, this picture book is perfect for sleepy library fans.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

goodnight songs

Goodnight Songs by Margaret Wise Brown

A new collection of previously unpublished poems from the master Margaret Wise Brown are illustrated here by twelve different illustrators.  According to the introduction by Amy Gary, the editor of the Margaret Wise Brown Estate, these poems were part of a trunk of unpublished manuscripts that Margaret’s sister had in her barn.  They reflect the interest that Margaret developed towards the end of her life in creating music for children.  The book is accompanied by a music CD that brings the poems into song.  This book is just as enjoyable as a song book or a poetry book, make sure to try it out both ways!

Brown’s poems are simple and lovely.  Some of them read like nursery rhymes with plenty of repetition of phrase and style.  Others are a bit looser but still musical even as words.  She created small worlds in each song, offering lovely gems of moments in each one.  I have a handful of top favorites from the book:  “The Mouse’s Prayer” which is a beautiful wintry poem, “Wooden Town” that evokes a childhood joy of creating a little world of blocks, and “The Secret Song” which is a question and answer poem that is quiet and lonely.

The twelve illustrators make up some of the top illustrators in today’s picture books.  There is a great pleasure in turning the page and seeing an entirely different feel with the next poem.  Some are bright and sunny, others deep colored like the night, and still others filled with snow.  The styles reflect each of the illustrators and as a whole the book works extremely well, giving each poem a distinct note of its own on the page.

A top pick for children’s poetry, these songs are a dazzling collection from a very talented writer.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

may the stars drip down

May the Stars Drip Down by Jeremy Chatelain, illustrated by Nikki McClure

Quiet and lovely, this is a picture book version of the lullaby by indie rock band Cub Country.   That song is haunting and beautiful with its slow pace.  This book is much the same.  The lyrics to the song read as a poem on the page, one that takes a child on a journey of dreams before returning back home again.  It is a book designed for reading at bedtime in the same soothing pace as the song. 

McClure’s cut paper art adds to the beauty of the book.  Done entirely in blues and whites, the book invites children to twilight and darkness.  Throughout the book the night is celebrated in its beauty, from the moon on the sea to the the owl winging past.  There is a sense both in the poem and the art that you are seeing into the secrets of the evening.

A gorgeous new version of a song, this book is ideal for bedtime reading and dreaming.  Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Abrams Books.

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