cover image THE DROWSY HOURS: Poems for Bedtime

THE DROWSY HOURS: Poems for Bedtime

Susan Pearson, , illus. by Peter Malone. . HarperCollins, $16.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-688-16603-8

With its layered, metaphoric language and equally textured illustrations, this outstanding collection of 16 bedtime poems will enthrall its audience. Like the images found in compelling dreams, Malone's (The World of King Arthur and His Court) combination of old and new elements is both real and timeless. The evocative paintings of nighttime wonders are partly conjured from Britain's past. Barbara Juster Esbensen's "dark magician" in "Nightfall" could easily be a character from The Little Princess as he moves Chagall-like through the sky, wearing a turban and star-studded cape; the eponymous hero of Arthur Guiterman's "The Starlighter" sports a Victorian lamplighter's top hat; the greedy North Wind in Vachel Lindsay's poem munches the moon in Shakespearean stage dress. Malone tackles more contemporary scenes with equal agility: the shadow of Dennis Lee's protective "Gentle Giant" looms over a suburban landscape and sends diminutive "bad men" scurrying; and Norma Farber's "Manhattan Lullaby" offers a view from a high-rise apartment building. A few of the illustrations divide into four pane-like scenes (e.g., a quartet of portraits of "The Mouse" by Elizabeth Coatsworth; and visual interpretations of Louis Untermeyer's four "Questions at Night"), but Malone renders most as full-page illustrations in quiltlike blocks. Each is individually stunning and, despite the varied moods, contributes to the effectiveness of the book as a unified whole. The exceptional images enhance the poems' meaty, figurative language without overpowering or co-opting the words. This bedtime book will inspire interesting dreams long after lights-out. Ages 3-up. (June)