cover image The Night World

The Night World

Mordicai Gerstein. Little, Brown, $18 (40p) ISBN 978-0-316-18822-7

Caldecott Medalist Gerstein (The Man Who Walked Between the Towers) lifts two everyday miracles up for celebration—the way that night transforms objects into unfamiliar forms and shadows, and the way that morning restores them to their original splendor. One morning before dawn, a black cat jumps onto the bed of a boy. “Me-out!” Sylvie tells him. “It’s coming.” Gerstein paints the two as black shapes on soft gray; as they creep through the house, sleeping family members and bulky pieces of furniture create graceful, abstract compositions. For Gerstein, night is not a problem to be solved. The boy wanders without anxiety, and everything unfolds with a sense of leisurely pleasure. He wonders at the starry sky (“The air is warm and sweet.... This is the night world. There are shadows everywhere”) and struggles to identify familiar things. “Are those lilies and sunflowers? Where are their colors?” Now, animals begin to gather in anticipation: deer, an owl, a porcupine, rabbits. “It’s coming,” they murmur. What’s coming is clear, but readers will find their hearts beating faster despite themselves. The sky begins to lighten, becoming a pale, milky green. A turn of the page and the sky grows brighter; the animals retreat: “This is our bedtime.” Yet another page turn, and the boy greets the rising sun. “It’s here!” says Sylvie. The sun casts long yellow rays, and the flowers are revealed in all their glory. It’s a remarkable achievement, gratifying for the way simple pencil lines and casual strokes of color are used to create the luminous spreads. Gerstein’s sure eye and patient observation of each moment of the dawn provide all the drama this narrative needs. Ages 3–6. (June)