cover image A Night on the Range

A Night on the Range

Aaron Frisch, illus. by Chris Sheban, Creative Editions, $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-56846-205-9

Inspired by a pair of cowboy boots and steady diet of “black-and-white Westerns checked out from the library,” Cole is ready to take his pretend play to the next level by sleeping under the stars (his faithful and highly expressive dog, Bull’s Eye, is more dubious). Does Cole have what it takes to stand tall against the sounds and shadows of the backyard at night, which seem to speak of “crickets and rattlesnakes... or owls and secret calls between bandits”? Frisch’s (Dark Fiddler) text has a little too much fun at his hero’s expense (“Cole never knew it could get so chilly on the range. He wondered if cowboys always got goosebumps”), but Sheban’s (Catching the Moon), signature pebbly surfaces diffuse light to give even the goofiest or most prosaic images an ethereal quality that testifies to the transportive power of imagination. And his mise-en-scène is worthy of Sergio Leone, whether it’s a closeup of Cole brushing his teeth with a beef jerky stick or a stunning worm’s eye view of Cole and Bull’s Eye losing themselves in the wonders of twilight. Ages 5–up. (Sept.)