cover image Night Visitors

Night Visitors

Ed Young. Philomel Books, $15.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-399-22731-8

In this ambitious but hazy picture book, Caldecott Medalist Young relies on a string of ambiguities to deliver an unequivocal message. Soon after the young scholar Ho Kuan protests his parents' plan to kill the ants that invade their rice storehouse, ``night visitors'' in the form of black-armored soldiers escort Ho Kuan to the king's palace, where he lives happily until an attack by an army of red ants. But perhaps the phrase ``night visitors'' is a metaphor, signifying a dream-which Ho Kuan's adventure seems to have been. Upon wakening, however, Ho Kuan is led by black ants to the hidden treasure promised to him in his dream. Illustrations provide further metaphors. In one spread, for example, ant-like warriors (or warrior-like ants) march along a distant field; above them, a sunset merges with an image of weeping human eyes that peer over the vast horizon. While paradoxes reign-reality vs. dreams, war for the sake of peace-the nature of Ho Kuan's heroism is never in doubt. He has respected life in all its forms, ``no matter how small.'' Despite the worthiness of the lesson, the storytelling and the illustrations may be too sophisticated for young readers. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)