cover image The Insomniacs

The Insomniacs

Karina Wolf, illus. by the Brothers Hilts. Putnam, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-399-25665-3

Future fans of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean will thrill to this after-dark debut from Wolf, with shadowy illustrations by Ben and Sean Hilts. After a move across “twelve time zones” to a new residence, the Insomniac family—Mother, Father, and daughter Mika—cannot sleep. Porcelain-skinned and spindly-limbed, the doll-like Insomniacs droop in blazing sunlight and only feel alert at night. When they hoist glowing lanterns to explore a moonlit winter forest, undaunted by forbidding silhouettes and reflecting animal eyes, they realize “the darkness was full of life.” The three embrace sleeplessness, waking at dusk for “a breakfast of nightshade vegetables” and being first “to the bakery, where the dough rose with the sun.” The Hilts’ grainy illustrations allow for the eerie (chiroptophobes, beware the cave images when the family happens upon “a horde of mice hanging upside down”), and the dim ambience challenges human eyesight, yet their inky pared-down palette is enticing. Where most picture books say goodnight, this unusual entry gives the go-ahead to stay up late. Ages 3–5. Agent: Brenda Bowen, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (Aug.)