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.
Rufus the Writer by Elizabeth Bram, illustrated by Chuck Groenink (InfoSoup)
Released July 14, 2015.
One summer Rufus decides not to have his regular lemonade stand. Instead he will do a story stand! So he gets all set up wtih plenty of paper, pencils, pens and markers. When Millie and her little brother Walter stop at the stand, Rufus agrees to write them a story in exchange for a special shell from the beach. The story is about Walter’s favorite color. Sandy stops by with a box of kittens and even though they are free, Rufus writes a story in exchange for the black kitten, a story about cats. Rufus is reminded that his little sister’s birthday is tomorrow and he knows that a story will be the best present. Sara stops by and asks for a story about buttons, so Rufus agrees in exchange for whatever Sara thinks it should be worth. All of his customers pick up their stories at the same time and sit right down to read and enjoy them.
This smart blend of lemonade stand and creativity makes for a book premise that is very engaging and fun. Particularly pleasant is the lack of focus on money as payment and instead allowing a warm and friendly bartering system in exchange for Rufus’ stories. The values make sense, paid in kittens, shells and flowers. Also great is the way that Rufus’ stories are each designed specifically for that reader, with their favorite color or via the subject matter. The stories are engaging and fun, just brief enough to give a flavor and not slow the main storyline down.
Groenink’s illustrations are done in gouache, acrylics and pencils with Adobe Photoshop. They are warm and bright, showing a friendly neighborhood with plenty of ethnic diversity in Rufus’ customers. They have a playful feel with the trees around Rufus’ stand done in a whimsical way and various woods animals peeking at what is going on. The illustrations in Rufus’ stories are drawn with fine details and show the coloring lines. They have the same quality and feel of the other pictures but also have a distinct style of their own.
A celebration of creativity and writing, this book may inspire children to find their own variations on lemonade stands or even try their hand at writing and illustrating their own stories. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Schwartz & Wade and Edelweiss.