Illuminating the world of those whose day begins when most of us are tucked into bed, Night Job by Karen Hesse is a sweet story about hard work and devotion. One young boy makes a lunch he and his father will share late in the night, as he prepares to join his father at his night custodial job. While the duo cleans, they squeeze in moments of levity as they work their way through the deserted school, turning a night’s work into time together.
Multiple award-winner Hesse narrates in first person with an ear for childhood wonder and honesty, as the boy observes everything from the fishy smell coming from the bay to his father’s heft of custodial keys. Exceptionally poetic, Hesse’s imaginative language lends a slightly surreal and dreamlike feeling to this nighttime adventure. Even the taste of a well-earned, late-night sandwich is amplified.
G. Brian Karas’s art perfectly matches Hesse’s observant tone. An empty school by night might seem somewhat otherworldly, but Karas manages to convey a sense of intimacy and coziness as our characters work in muted colors that are highlighted by spots of bright light. Karas illustrates with unexpected and often disarming detail; I could almost feel the early-morning breeze blowing in through the window.
Inspired by a true story, Night Job is, at first glance, a story about a boy and his father going to work. Unexpressed with words, and yet loudest of all, is its emotional undertone of love, companionship and admiration.