Flashlight Night by Matt Forrest Esenwine, illustrated by Red Koehler
Three children are up in their treehouse in the dark with a flashlight. As the flashlight beam breaks the night, it reveals an adventure. The children head into a woods, through a tomb, on to a pirate shore. There are sword battles, a grabby giant squid, and finally an escape. Then they are back in their treehouse, sharing a good book by flashlight. The text quietly builds the space for the illustrations that fill the page with discoveries by the handheld light. Throughout, there is a feeling of wonder, of the light revealing things that may or may not be there. The illustrations are exceptional, showing the joy of flashlights in the dark and the power of imaginations at play. Perfect to read with flashlights and then head outside for your own adventures. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)
Lines by Suzy Lee (9781452156651)
A lone ice skater skates past leaving swirling lines on the ice. There are curls and tight spirals and loose curves that feel like music on the page. In her red hat and mittens, the ice skater fills the page with her patterns. Then she falls to the ground and suddenly the page is crumpled up by the artist in frustration. Unfolded again, the page is wrinkled and smudged. But soon more skaters are joining in and the crumpled page becomes a pond filled with people enjoying the ice. Lee once again creates a beautifully simple book that speaks to nature, beauty and quiet. The use of the pulling back and having the artist crumple the page breaks the fourth wall and then turns the picture book into something even more interesting and fresh. This picture book is beautifully designed and very clever. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Review copy supplied by Chronicle Books.)
Windows by Julia Denos (9780763690359)
Windows light up as night falls in this picture book that takes readers outside to explore a neighborhood. A boy heads out to walk the dog as night falls, able to see into others’ homes as he passes by. He can see people eating, partying, watching TV. He glimpses a cat and a raccoon. Some windows are dark, some houses are entirely dark. Then those are left to his imagination. Soon he returns back home to his own glowing window where his mother waits for him. There is a lovely quiet to this book, a pleasure in being outside at sunset, the sky lit with colors as the buildings turn dark with windows alight. The illustrations are beautiful, lit by the reds of the sky and the darkness growing with each turn of the page. Time for a flashlight walk in your neighborhood! Appropriate for ages 4-6. (ARC provided by Candlewick Press.)
Noisy Night by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Brian Biggs (9781596439672, Amazon)
It’s quite a loud evening in the apartment building. People on each floor can hear what’s happening on the floor above them. The person on each floor hears a strange noise, wonders what it is and the illustrations give a hint as well. Each of the noises rhymes with the others, building the feeling the illustrations give of climbing higher and higher up the stories of the structure. There is a great energy about the book
There is a great energy about the book with the climbing of the heights. It’s added to by the rhymes and rhythms of the book, a strong structure for the story and one that creates a book that grows and builds. The ending is perfection, the timing throughout just right and the humor bold and delightful.
The illustrations have a wild zaniness that works perfectly with the story. There’s a subtle vintage feel to them in the patterns used in the setting but the bold colors are clearly modern and add to the energy of the tale.
This book begs to be shared aloud and children will guess what is making the next noise. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.
The Blue Hour by Isabelle Simler (9780802854889, Amazon)
In between day and night, there is a special time of day: twilight or the blue hour. This picture book looks as blue animals during this brief time of day, capturing their blue beauty against the blue of the setting. There are animals like the blue fox from the arctic. Poison blue dart frogs are tropical. The plants and animals come from around the world, some from our own backyards like violets and bluebirds. Throughout the book, there is a feel of the magical time of day and quiet it brings as night settles in.
Simler’s words are poetic. Her collection of plants and animals move from being more active to a quieter feel as the book progresses. This arc follows the way that nature quiets before nightfall. The end pages of the book offer information on different types of blue and then a map with the various animals on it.
The art is very special with the blue tones dominant throughout. There is a peacefulness and simplicity to it that matches the time of day perfectly. The various animals and plants are shown almost luminous on the blue background, their fur, feathers, and petals lit from within. This adds to the magical feel of the book and the sense that readers are looking at something almost secret.
A blue-tiful book about nature, time and the wonder around us. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans.
Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley, illustrated by Lauren Castillo (InfoSoup)
Lucy spent a long time playing at the beach with her mother and father. The three of them played in the waves, dug holes in the sand, and rolled down the dunes. Soon they were all yawning and Mom declared it was a day for early bedtime! As they got ready for bed, everyone was yawning and Lucy’s mom even fell asleep reading the bedtime book. In the middle of the night the moon shone brightly through Lucy’s window and she was suddenly wide awake. She tiptoed out of bed and through the living room where her father was asleep in a chair. Lucy was looking for Molasses, her bear. She found not only Molasses but all of her stuffed animals who all wanted to come with her to bed. Once again everyone was yawning, even the pictures on the wall, as Lucy fell asleep with her bed full of stuffed friends.
Smiley has done a brilliant job of capturing a day at the beach and then the wonder of being awake at night as a small child. She keeps the language simple, so this book can be shared successfully with very small children who will relate to the joy of playing at a beach, the quiet of early bedtime and then the pure loveliness of moonlight, tiptoeing to find a treasured toy and the imagination at play.
Castillo’s illustrations are glorious. She captures the brilliant light of summer sun at a sandy beach, the hours of play, and the languid sleepiness that rolls over you after a day like that. Her illustrations keep the dark night from being dangerous or frightening, instead keeping the house dimly lit and easily navigated. It is much more a delight than a fright to be alone and awake.
A lovely book of celebrating the warmth of both family togetherness and then the joy of being little and awake alone. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Two Lions.
Black Cat, White Cat by Silvia Borando (InfoSoup)
Black Cat is entirely black, from his ears to his tail. White Cat is entirely white. Black Cat only goes out during the day when he can see swallows flying, White Cat only goes out at night when the stars are out. Then one day, Black Cat decides to see the night. And that is how Black Cat and White Cat meet. The two decide to explore day and night together. The night has fireflies while the day has bumblebees. The day has daisies, birds and butterflies while the night has snakes, bats and mice. The two cats become best friends, and eventually have kittens of their own. And you will never guess what color they are!
Borando is an Italian author. Here she uses lovely simple language to convey the wonder of both night and day as seen through a fresh set of eyes. The budding friendship of the two cats is captured in a lively way on the page, each of them sharing their world with the other. The illustrations and design of the book is what makes it special. The use of just the two colors on the page, black and white is done with a subtle humor. Borando creates scenarios where the black cat provides the dark background for the white cat to appear against in the day time and then reverses it. These clever little twists are a joy.
Graphically interesting and beautifully designed, this picture book even has a surprise ending to enjoy. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Night Animals by Gianna Marino (InfoSoup)
When Skunk walks by, he notices that Possum is hiding and asks why. She’s hiding from “the night animals” and hushes Skunk. The two hide together in a hollow tree until Skunk hears Wolf coming. Wolf shouts for help and says that something big is chasing him. Meanwhile Skunk has gotten alarmed and released his scent which has Possum fainting. Bear arrives in a panic saying that something HUGE is following him! It must be a night animal. Logic is restored by a little bat who informs all of the animals that THEY are the night animals. So what could they be afraid of? You will see!
Marino captures the hectic pace of panic neatly in this picture book. It builds from one animal to the next until it reads at almost breakneck speed as the animals grow in both size and number. The text is very simple and lends itself to lots of voices and humor when read aloud. Children may realize that all of these are nocturnal animals right away, but the final twist of the book will have even those clued into the lack of reason for any panic laughing.
The illustrations add so much to this book. With backgrounds of the darkest black, the animals pop on the page with their light coloring. Speaking in speech bubbles, they are funny and frightened. The addition of Skunk’s overuse of his scent makes for an even funnier read, particularly with it being Possum who is always hit with it.
Funny and a delight to read aloud, this picture book is ideal for sleepovers and bedtime reading, particularly if done by flashlight. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Viking Books for Young Readers.
Sun and Moon by Lindsey Yankey (InfoSoup)
All Moon wanted was to spend just one day as the Sun. The Sun agreed with two conditions. The first was that their switch would not be for just one day, but it would be permanent. The second was that Moon had to spend one more night in the sky, and this time he had to spend his time really looking at the earth below. The Moon agreed though he expected to only see a sleepy earth below him. Instead though, he saw city lights, foxes getting ready to hunt, children dreaming, flowers blooming that only open at night, the stars around him, and much more. There were even fireworks in the sky and fireflies darting too. Will Moon still want to change spots with Sun?
Structured like a folktale, this picture book speaks to the importance of both day and night. And to the important role that both our sun and our moon play in the sky and for life on earth. Yankey makes sure to honor both of them, creating timeless moments that show the Moon just how beautiful night actually is.
Yankey shows the brilliance of the night in this picture book. First she shows the beauty of the daytime with her tigers lounging and bright flowers blooming. But the book truly comes to life as the pages turn dark midnight blue and the world gets filled with the light of the moon and stars. Some pages are filled with celebrations of dreams and the wonder of the forest at night while others are quiet and subtle.
A lovely bedtime read, this picture book celebrates nighttime and its beauty. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett (InfoSoup)
Orion is scared of a lot of things thanks to his big imagination, but the thing that he is most frightened of is the dark. He hates bedtime and spends the night watching for monsters and listening for scary noises. One night, he is so upset that he shouts at the dark to just go away! That’s when the Dark outside his window changed and became alive. It entered his room and Orion cautiously greeted him. Then the Dark invited Orion along on an adventure. First, the two explored the darkest and most frightening parts of Orion’s house together and it turned out that those places were a lot of fun. They faced the scary sounds in the darkness together and found out that they weren’t that frightening after all. Finally, they headed out into the darkest place of all, the night sky and there Orion discovered that not only wasn’t he scared of the Dark anymore, but they had become the best of friends.
Yarlett has written a dynamic picture book that does a lot to soothe fear of the dark. First, it turns the dark into a character who is warm, friendly and filled with stars. He’s also rounded and rather like a sparkling stuffed animal. There is certainly nothing to fear there. Then as they explore the dark places and noises together, readers and Orion realize that there is nothing to be afraid of there either. The ending of the book as they fly up into the night is magical and marvelous, offering another way to see the night.
The illustrations are done with plenty of humor. The paper switches as Orion thinks of things or plans to lined paper that makes it more like a school assignment. His ideas also show up in childlike crayon, including the fierce monsters that he imagines are in the closet. A couple of the pages have Dark’s arm as part of them, moving the arm makes the Dark shake hands with Orion, and really allows the Dark to greet the reader too.
Lovely illustrations that embrace the darkness of night combine with strong storytelling in this picture book that will have everyone wishing they too could make friends with the Dark. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Moon Is Going to Addy’s House by Ida Pearle (InfoSoup)
When Addy’s play date is finished, she is taken home in a car by her father and mother. Her little sister is along for the ride too and the moon shines outside of their windows. It is sometimes high in the sky, other times low under a bridge. It follows them over a bridge, through the hills. It is sometimes so close that you would think you could catch it in your hands. The moon goes all the way to their home with them, waiting outside during their bath and then celebrates along with Addy during her nighttime dance. It’s even there when she finally goes to bed.
Pearle has written a poem to the moon, celebrating the way that it shines on all children from up above. She captures the way that the moon seems to shift positions as you drive, the joy of open windows and wind, and the peek-a-boo that the moon plays with clouds and objects. The text is simple and poetic, creating a mood of joy and universal pleasure in heading home at night.
The illustrations here are stunningly beautiful. Done in cut-paper collage, they are astonishing. Pearle captures the feel of a dog’s fur, the play of moonlight across large buildings, the deep purple of the night as it arrives. She also changes the color of the moon as the journey continues, allowing it to take over the final pages with its splendor.
This moonlit book is gorgeous and just right for a bedtime read. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.