cover image Just Because

Just Because

Mac Barnett, illus. by Isabelle Arsenault. Candlewick, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-7636-9680-1

Barnett (The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown) offers a comic look at that famous childhood bedtime-delaying tactic, the difficult question. Mixed-media drawings by Arsenault (Albert’s Quiet Quest) show a child all tucked in, the light from the hallway shining on her well-appointed bedroom’s wall. Her father stands in the doorway clad in a V-neck sweater and slacks. “Why is the ocean blue?” she asks. A page turn reveals a spread of intricate beauty: kelp sways and fish strum on stringed instruments: “Every night, when you go to sleep,” comes the response, “the fish take out guitars. They sing sad songs and cry blue tears.” The girl keeps the questions coming, asking about everything from autumn foliage to black holes, and the father’s answers amuse throughout as Arsenault’s big, dynamic spreads shift from leafy idyll to primeval upheaval, always in contrast to the reality of the girl’s darkened bedroom. The girl succeeds in luring her father back for a few more minutes of quality time—by the end, he’s actually sitting on her bed—and he offers her, as a final farewell, one last thought to fall asleep by. Arsenault’s imaginative power enhances a thin, nevertheless enjoyable, text. Ages 4–8. [em](Sept.) [/em]