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.
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.
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 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 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 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.