Monday, May 16, 2022

The Pleasure of a Nighttime Walk: a Picture Books Roundup

When I was a kid nighttime exploration (with an adult) was one of my favorite summertime things to do.
We often rode our bikes around Prospect Park lake at dusk, went to Coney Island for picnic dinners and fireworks, and my dad taught me how to recognize flowers and plants, stars and constellations. So, when I started reading Big Hedgehog and Little Hedgehog Take an Evening Stroll, I saddened to discover that some of my young readers are afraid of being out at night even when they are with an adult. And they told me that after they get home, they almost never go back out after dark. So I put together a roundup of picture books for them to get a taste of the pleasure of a nighttime walk, even if it is vicariously. I should mention my young readers are 4-5 years old and we read these books over a period of time so as not to overwhelm them.

Big Hedgehog and Little Hedgehog 
Take an Evening Stroll
written and illustrated by Britta Teckentrup
translated from the German by Nicola Stuart
Prestel Publishing, 2022, 32 pages
As evening comes on, Big Hedgehog and Little Hedgehog head for home, but as they go along, Little Hedgehog keeps wanting to stop. First, he wants to wait until the sun sets, so they sit down and watch the sun disappear, before continuing on their way.But then, Little Hedgehog wants to stop and wait for the moon to rise. After the moon rise, they pass a field of beautiful flowers and Little Hedgehog wants to stop and smell the flowers, stopping to inhale their beautiful scent. After hearing the tu-whit, tu-whoo of some owls, Little Hedgehog convinces Bigh Hedgehog to to stop and visit before waving goodbye as they head for home. But there are still things to stop and look at - clouds in the sky, frogs in the pond singing their evening song, fireflies lighting up the night, and finally, just before they get home, a sky filled with stars to be counted. But Little Hedgehog doesn't get far with counting before he falls asleep and Big Hedgehog carries him home to bad. At first, it feels like Little Hedgehog is procrastinating, trying to postpone his bedtime. But really, this is a book about slowing down and taking the time to look at and appreciate the world around us. It's a gentle, soothing story and I  love the relationship between Big Hedgehog and Little Hedgehog, and I can't help but thing that Big Hedgehog has a level of patience many adults lack, but might be inspired by. The illustrations, textured collages and soft brush strokes, are done in a palette of colors in nature and I like the way the illustrations reflect the oncoming night, getting darker with each stop the pair make. This book was a big hit with my young readers, and we've already read it a number of times. It definitely has a place in our library of favorites.                     

Seeking an Aurora by Elizabeth Pulford,
illustrated by Anne Bannock
Blue Dot Kids Press, 2021, 32 pages
This past winter, people posted such spectacular aurora photos, I decided to share some of them with my young readers and talk about what an aurora is. But first, I read them this beautiful story about a father who wakes up his young son in the middle of a winter night. They dress warmly and head outside, walking up a high hill and waiting. The boy, our narrator, doesn't know what an aurora is and has lots of questions for his dad: Is it scary? Are there stars in an aurora, is the moon in it? It's pitch dark at the top of the hill, and father and son sit down to wait, when suddenly his dad tells the boy to turn around. When he does, the boy is surprised by the beautiful 'wings of light' in the sky 'Dancing light, glowing and glimmering, shimmering and shining, colored ribbons swirling and twirling, lighting up the sky on the still, dark night." On their way home, the boy's father tells him everything he knows about aurora and that is exactly what the back matter consists of. The soft pastel illustrations really capture (as much as you can capture a natural phenomena) the colors and dance of an aurora. This book is a perfect introduction to auroras for young readers, many of whom, like mine, may never see a real aurora. You can download an helpful teacher's guide for grades 1-4 HERE. I found it helpful even though my kiddos are younger. 

The Night Walk
written and illustrated by Marie Dorléans
Floris Books, 2021, 32 pages
In the middle of the night, a brother and sister are awakened by their parents. After getting dressed, they leave the house, ready to have a nighttime adventure. They walk through town, where the only lights are the bright windows of the big hotel, before leaving town behind and heading into the countryside, passing sleeping cows in a meadow along the way. Leaving the road, they take a path heading into the forest, but not before they see and hear a passing nigh train. After a while, they come to an open area where they can see the brightly shining full moon. When they come to a clearing, the family stops for a rest, lying on their backs, stunned by the vast, glittering sky. Moving on, they climb up a rocky hill, hurrying so they won't be late. At the top, they are just in time to see sun rise "amazed by the light of a new day." There is something magical about watching a sun rise and a sun set, and this book quietly captures that magic moment at the end of a long, mysterious journey. This book provided another opportunity to talk to my young readers about a natural occurrence that we sometimes take for granted and to introduce them to the way the sun travels about the earth without overwhelming or confusing them with technicalities. Because it is nighttime, the hand drawn illustrations are done using graphite pencil and watercolor on a background on in varying shades of blue. 

Night Walk by Sara O'Leary,
illustrated by Ellie Arscott
Groundwood Books, 2020, 32 pages
One night, a young girl, our narrator, was supposed to be sleeping, but she was wide awake. When he noticed she wasn't sleeping, her dad suggested they go for a walk. They tiptoes past her sleeping baby brother, her older sister reading in bed, and her mom watching television with her eyes closed. Once outside, everything seemed new and different. With lights on, they could look into people's homes and see what they are doing. Out narrator could see that the sad looking lady isn't so sad after all, that a big family is having a meal too late for dinner, but too early for supper. And she is very surprised to find that there are some many people out and about, walking dogs, riding the bus, eating in restaurants at a time she should have been in bed and asleep. When her dad tells her that as a boy he lived in in the country with no close neighbors, our narrator thinks about how she has lived surrounded by people she knows and people she doesn't know, that where she lives is home and that that is where she belongs. I was afraid my young readers might have a negative reaction to this book because they haven't always lived here. But most of them have been out at night in our neighborhood and agreed with the narrator that everything looks and feels different at night. Interestingly, they seemed for find this story reassuring in some way, but could explain it. They did find the illustrations, which were done in watercolor and ink pen, to be very friendly (their word), but so did I. We live in NYC, but there are some private homes in the area as well as apartments over stores, so on some level, I think the illustrations felt somewhat familiar and "friendly." 

The Way Home in the Night
written and illustrated by Akiko Miyakoshi
Kids Can Press, 2017, 32 pages
The first book in this roundup is about going home at night in the country. This book is about going home at the end of the day, too, but in the city. As a young bunny, our narrator, is carried through the quiet streets by her mother, she is aware of everything that is happening behind the lit windows of stores and neighboring homes. First, she notices a restaurant cook and bookseller closing up for the night. Then, she hears a phone ring in one home, smells a pie baking in another, a flickering light must mean someone is watching TV and next door are the sounds of a big party happening. Arriving home, her father tucks her into bed, and before falling asleep, she thinks about her way home: are the party guests leaving to go home? is the person who got the phone call getting ready for bed? is the restaurant cook home taking a bath and the bookseller home reading a book? Just before falling asleep, our narrator hears footsteps in the street and wonders if the lady they belong to is heading to the train station to take the last train home? Nights, she things, are always different but one thing is the same - we all go home to bed. This is a very quiet, gentle, contemplative story, allowing the young bunny to really use her imagination. The illustrations are done in pencil, charcoal, and acrylic gouache with touches of color throughout and giving the feeling dusk to oncoming night. The book is populated with a variety anthropomorphic animals, all engaged in ordinary human end-of-the-day type tasks. This is a great bedtime story, but I read it to my young readers to inspire them to talk about their walk home at the end of the day, and to encourage them to notice more of what is happening around them.

The Lions at Night
written and illustrated by Jessica M. Boehman
The Road Runner Press, 2019, 40 pages
I thought I would close our roundup of books about nighttime walks with a little humor. This is a wordless picture book about a nighttime adventure the two library lions, Patience and Fortitude, have. As it begins, the illustrations are in black and white, but color begins to creep in as the streets empty and the lions "wake up" and jump down from their perches. First the lions head for the subway, but the lady walking her dog doesn't notice them because she's busy looking at her phone, but her dog does. On the subway, grownups are busy reading, sleeping, listening to music, so it's only the kids who notice Patience and Fortitude. Pretty soon, the lions leave Manhattan behind and arrive at Coney Island, where eat, play games, winning a pink teddy bear, and ride the rides, especially the Cyclone. Then, it's off to the NY Aquarium, take a swm in the ocean and head to the subway station and home. There they are greeted by a elderly debonaire man who reads the two tired lions a bedtime story before they hop on there perches again and go to sleep. As which point the man returns to the library with the pink teddy bear, which he adds it to the collection of other colorful stuffed animals from other nighttime adventures of Patience and Fortitude. This proved to be the fun book I was hoping it would be. My young readers have all been to Coney Island on the subway, so that was a lot of fun for them. And they are familiar with Patience and Fortitude, since we have read Josh Funk's books about them, Lost in the Library and Where is Our Library? Be sure to read the About Our Lions at the back of the book for a history of the lions and how they got their names and who sc. And that debonaire librarian? He is Edward Clark Potter (1857-1923) who sculpted the models for the lions. And the author has hidden some Easter eggs throughout the book that refer to the lions' history. It might be fun to see if you can find them.  

1 comment:

  1. I have not read any of these- but I love the theme of being out in the night for various reasons. I am so curious about the book Seeking the Aurora. I don't recall seeing this theme show up in a picture book before. Thanks for sharing all of these titles!


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