In this cumulative picture book, debut author Anne Wynter and Caldecott Honor illustrator Oge Mora knock it out of . . . well, out of the red brick building.
“WaaaAAH!” yells baby Izzie, popping up in her crib and waking her neighbor’s parrot in the apartment building where they both live. The baby’s squalling and the bird’s squawking then wake Benny, Cairo and Miles from their sleeping bags (chips, popcorn and books in this spread suggest a sleepover had been in progress). The “Pitter Patter STOMP” of the trio playing flashlight tag then wakes downstairs neighbor Natalia, who decides it’s a great time to launch her new toy rocket; it soars out of her bedroom window with a “PSSHEEW!”
Wynter’s story is tightly constructed and carefully paced. Each spread builds upon the one before and recounts the growing list of sounds. By the time we reach the book’s midpoint, a car alarm, Natalia’s rocket, the children’s game, the parrot and baby Izzie have succeeded in awakening Everybody in the Red Brick Building.
The adults quickly take charge, soothing screaming Izzie and the parrot, turning off car alarms and flashlights and securing flying rockets. The soft sounds that compose the book’s second half, which include a street sweeper, acorns falling from a tree and wind chimes, also build cumulatively, but this time to send the residents back to sleep. Baby Izzie, who’s been awake the longest, receives the full benefit of all the sounds, with the marvelous addition of the “pah-pum . . . pah-pum . . . pah-pum of her mother’s heart” as they nestle closely together in a cozy magenta armchair.
Mora’s art is the ideal match for Wynter’s engaging text. Her illustrations incorporate the story’s sounds (such as the parrot’s “Rraak! WAKE UP!” and the car alarm’s “WEEYOOOWEEEEYOOOOO!!!!”), collaged in her distinctive style and sweeping across the book’s spreads. The book’s climax, in which all the sleep-disturbing sounds fly forth from the building, is expertly composed. Mora knows exactly how to use elements like simple shapes to keep a busy event from being too visually complex or overwhelming. As always, her textured, highly patterned artwork invites lingering looks and repeat reads.
This gentle sonic adventure is just right for sending children off to sleep.