cover image Mad Summer Night's Dream

Mad Summer Night's Dream

Ruth Brown. Dutton Children's Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-525-46010-7

Visions of oxymorons dance in a girl's head in this madcap rhyme of nocturnal adventures. Right from its slightly skewed beginning--""One midsummer night in winter/ when snow lay on the ground""--the story turns everything upside-down and inside-out. Flowers sing and birds bloom while two cats face off to fight on a bridge, ""staring at each other/ while sitting back to back."" Brown's soft-textured, pale-hued watercolors keep the disorientation upbeat, yet casts foreboding shadows over parts of the story. She captures the distinct dreamlike quality of watching oneself from above in images such as, ""I went down to the cellar/ to look from an upstairs room""; a dungeon scene shows Escher-like stairs leading downward and downward around a dark pit only to end up at the door, where they begin. And when three stone monkeys (of the humorous see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil variety) leap to life in order to referee a fight between the two cats, the illustration's gray palette is more edgy than dreamy. Replete with common feelings of falling, climbing and familiar characters in strange situations, this dream sequence will resonate with young readers. Because all ends believably (the girl wakes when she falls in the dream) and well (the two cat opponents from the dream nuzzle together on the bed), children will likely laugh with relief at the conclusion. Ages 3-7. (May)