cover image Nighttime Ninja

Nighttime Ninja

Barbara DaCosta, illus. by Ed Young. Little, Brown, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-316-20384-5

DaCosta builds her debut on the scaffolding of the suspenseful adventure that turns out to be make-believe. Illustrators of stories like these sometimes hint at what’s coming with comic artwork, but Young’s (The House That Baba Built) collages are deadly serious as he enters fully into the boy’s fantasy. His ninja, a black silhouette, breaks into a house and makes his way silently toward some unknown object: “He crept down the twisting moonlit hallway, and knelt in the dark shadows, listening.” Suddenly, a huge mother-shaped shadow flicks the light on, and the ninja is revealed as a boy sneaking into the kitchen for ice cream. Readers will be jolted (in a good way)—they’ve been immersed in the ninja’s search, and it’s tense with expectation. Artwork as fine as Young’s might overshadow the story, but DaCosta crafts her spare text carefully and with humor. Her ninja language tracks the boy’s actions right up to the moment he grabs a spoon. The depth of feeling Da Costa and Young give to the boy’s fantasy makes this a standout. Ages 3–6. Illustrator’s agent: Edward Necarsulmer IV, McIntosh & Otis. (Sept.)