cover image The Night Shimmy

The Night Shimmy

Gwen Strauss. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $15 (30pp) ISBN 978-0-679-82384-1

The Night Shimmy is Eric's friend: he explains why Eric can't eat his peas (Eric himself prefers not to talk) and keeps the boy company when the other children tease him about his shyness. When Eric meets Marcia, who accepts him as he is, the Night Shimmy takes his leave--and Eric finds that he has plenty to say. This quietly effective picture book derives its power in part from Strauss's understated text, which stays with Eric's perspective and thus never spells out that the Night Shimmy is imaginary or that Eric eventually needs to abandon him. While Browne's dramatic paintings here are technically proficient, their coldness may distance youngsters. The very devices that indicate Eric's changing emotions (early on, he appears in small boxed pictures framed with black; as his friendship with Marcia develops, the pictures become larger and their black backgrounds yield to white) create a stark mood that seems at odds with the narrative. Still, this acknowledgment of the pain of letting go of fantasies may strike a responsive chord in readers. Ages 4-7. (Mar.)