cover image Night of the Gargoyles

Night of the Gargoyles

Eve Bunting. Clarion Books, $17 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-395-66553-4

In this haunting black-and-white picture book, Bunting (see A Day's Work, reviewed above) and Wiesner (Tuesday) imagine the secret life of gargoyles. At night, while the city sleeps, they creep from their perches, clambering to the windows of the museum, where they ``peer,/ nearsighted,/ into rooms where mummies lie/ in boxes, long and thin/ as coffins, ribboned round/ with painted boats and figures.'' They then gather at the fountain to compare notes and thumb their noses at the night watchman before returning to their corners as day breaks. This is an unusually sophisticated work, playful but dark-edged. Its language is both economical and rich, its mood a complex blend of the eerie, the sensuous (the gargoyles ``lick the stars with long, stone tongues''), the innocent (the creatures evince a childlike curiosity and a touching, very human desire for company) and the melancholic (they ``have no love of humans who have made them so''). Wiesner captures all these moods and more in marvelously textured charcoal-powder illustrations that powerfully infuse the stone-solid watersprouts with life. The gargoyles' impish, grotesque grins-expressions just this side of malevolent-and ``empty eyes unblinking'' are not easily forgotten. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)