In the author’s note of The Night World, Caldecott Medal-winning author-illustrator Mordicai Gerstein writes, “I’ve . . . been a great watcher of sunrises; to me, they are like watching the creation of the world.”
Ultimately, that’s what this beautiful book is about—a celebration of the dawning of a new day, though most of the book is dominated by a nighttime palette. Such dark, nocturnal colors are challenging to pull off in picture books, but Gerstein does it masterfully in this story of a cat named Sylvie waking a boy from his sleep and drawing him outside to see “the night world.” The boy is awed by the adventure, as he and his pet tiptoe through the house and yard, a world of shadows.
Using acrylics, pen and ink and colored pencils, Gerstein celebrates the stillness and mysteries of night, both in and outside, with dark smudges, the only color indoors being the cat’s shining green eyes as she guides the boy. Compelling page turns dominate the story, as Sylvie’s “meow” become “me-out!” and she leads the boy through the house, telling him to hurry and that “it’s coming . . . it’s almost here.” Gerstein outlines the creatures of the night that the boy meets in his yard—a yellow-eyed owl, rabbits, a skunk, a raccoon, deer, a fox and more—by the shadows of the night surrounding them.
The moment the sky starts to warm with the colors of the sunrise is an alluring one: “Through the leaves of the trees, there is a glow,” Gerstein writes. All creatures stand in astonishment, though once the sun dominates the sky and the palette drops us into a sea of colors, not unlike Dorothy having just landed in Oz, all the nocturnal animals flee. With the vivid colors now on display, readers see Gerstein’s loose, relaxed lines, which communicate such energy and spontaneity. And look closely at the sunflowers in the sun: They include intriguing textures. There’s a lot to pore over. It’s a book that invites reflection and celebrates wonder.
Find a copy pronto, and make a night of it.
Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.