cover image The Midnight Man

The Midnight Man

Berlie Doherty, Aan P. Andrew. Candlewick Press (MA), $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-0700-5

With poetic language, Doherty (Granny Was a Buffer Girl) creates an enigmatic bedtime fantasy. Every night a boy and his dog awaken to see the midnight man who ""comes riding through the town on his midnight horse with its hushing hooves."" The two follow the stranger through the streets of town to the moors, ""the end of the world,"" where the man rides off and leaves them sleeping on the ground. Next, the moon ""peers at them and cries,"" then returns them to the bedroom where the story began. There boy and dog awaken once again, thinking they see the ""winking moon"" and hear the ""midnight horse"" before falling back to sleep until morning. Lovely as many of Doherty's metaphors are, they leave lingering questions. Readers never know if the midnight visitor is good or evil; seductive though he is, he abandons the child and dog on the moor. The moon's tears also suggest the pair is in danger. Yet Andrews's (The Lion and the Mouse) colored-pencil illustrations depict a velvety world in which the child and dog seem safe--until they reach the vast moors at the edge of the world. The artist portrays just a hint of facial features on the ghostly midnight man, and creates no relationship between the nightly apparition and his followers. Unlike the Sandman, the eerie midnight man may well keep readers up at night. Ages 5-8. (Nov.)