One look at the cover of In the Night Garden, awash in dreamy night-sky blues, is enough to charm you. However, Carin Berger’s sweet, gentle bedtime story is more than just a pretty face; it fully captures the imagination.
Using her own garden as a muse, Berger (Finding Spring) takes the unease out of nighttime, turning it into a dynamic, wondrous place rich with animals, bugs and plants that come alive in the moonlight, dancing against a backdrop of calming blue shades. Berger’s collage art is vivid and detailed, with crisp lines that make the delicate flora and fauna pop. Only the fireflies appear hazy, swathed in the dandelion-fluff glow of their lights. The collages incorporate scraps of paper with handwritten notes, buttons, newsprint and bits of sheet music, blurring the line between reality and dreams. This is the kind of art that you want to look at again and again because it is, quite simply, gorgeous.
Berger’s second-person narration is straightforward and simple. It’s less of a story and more of a journey as she introduces the critters one might find under the moonlight, leading the reader from stargazing to snoozing. A black cat appears on every page, acting as a guide through this nighttime journey. Her language is simultaneously reassuring and imaginative, conveying a sense of security alongside descriptions of the beauty that can be found after sundown. It’s a well-balanced story that will calm the littlest readers before sending them off to dreamland.
I am always on the hunt for a good “last story” before bedtime. The requirements are as follows: It must be engaging enough to entertain but calm enough to bring young ones down from their daytime energy. Minimal text is good, and reassuring narration is a must, as is beautiful artwork. And lastly, it has to have a sensibility that pulls in the adults who will, no doubt, be reading it aloud a thousand times. In the Night Garden fits all of these requirements and more.