cover image HOW TO MAKE A NIGHT


Linda Ashman, , illus. by Tricia Tusa. . HarperCollins, $15.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-06-029032-0

In this fanciful picture book, Ashman's (Babies on the Go ) portrait of a frazzled family begins with pandemonium and ends with bedtime hugs. Initially, a wild gaggle of children and pets dangle from the ceiling and doorways while their overwhelmed parents, with catatonic faces, sit on the sofa. Tusa (The Ballad of Valentine ) matches the brisk, clipped description in the text ("Boat sprang a leak./ .../ Sneaker's in the creek") with energetic illustrations of a house in chaos. On one spread, an overflowing tub creates a river where toy animals in shoe boats float by, while on another, a boy crawls on the ceiling seeking a loose snake. Tusa's clever collages of black lined watercolors and photographs create an edgy tumble of colors to ratchet up the frenzy. Finally, a single determined girl takes charge and follows the crisp, clear directive of the text: "Time to settle down!/ Time to clean the mess!/ Time to bring the night around/ so everyone can rest." She dons an apron, climbs a tree and sweeps the clouds from the sky. When she lassoes the moon (like George in It's a Wonderful Life) , Tusa pictures science-book planets orbiting around her, along with a golf ball, lemon and artichoke; somehow the artist makes it all seem perfectly natural. By book's end, the narrative grows poetic, emulating the winding down of the day. A good bedtime choice for especially lively readers. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)