cover image THE NIGHT EATER


Ana Juan, . . Scholastic/Levine, $16.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-439-48891-4

Plump, sensuous shapes and luscious ice cream colors glide and curl through this fantasia, a myth about how night becomes day. "At the edge of every day," begins Juan (Frida ), "the Night Eater ran behind the moon. And as he ran, the Night Eater gobbled up the darkness." The pear-shaped Night Eater, a roly-poly magical entity, masks his infant-like face with a red-paper bird's beak and wears footie pajamas that match his bubble-gum-pink skin. He devours "cloudy nights as light and sweet as cotton candy and deep black nights that tasted like bitter chocolate." Eventually the moon comments on the Night Eater's expanding girth ("You've gotten a bit large , haven't you?"), and the insulted hero "refused to nibble." The world grows chilly and lifeless without daylight; in Juan's surreal spreads, fireflies glow against a midnight purple sky, gray smoke billows from overworked chimneys and solemn children—who might have wandered out of Sendak's imagination—howl for the Night Eater's return. Fortunately, the fellow accidentally slurps a tasty "sliver of star" and starts his cycle anew. Although this book addresses eating pleasure, the title character's body-consciousness seems misplaced, especially because he must be gluttonous to do his job (besides, might all that running burn calories?). Obesity issues aside, this book is gorgeous: every spread holds surprises, from hybrid creatures to an algae-green mermaid, all of whom look at home in the Dalí-esque landscapes. Juan's unpredictable paintings, whose uncanny imagery is the stuff of dreams, will wow readers. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)