On some nights, a snug bedroom is a hard place to fall asleep. On some nights, it's better to get away from slumbering, snoring family members and curl up alone with one's thoughts in the cool night air, under wide-open skies. In this charming bedtime fantasy, a sleepless city girl does just that, finding her surprising way to a serene rooftop version of a backyard campout.
With captivating ink-and-watercolor illustrations and a simple, lyrical text, newcomer Jonathan Bean has created a soothing bedtime story that is sure to charm children and parents alike.
At Night is the winner of the 2008 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Picture Books.
Bean (The Apple Pie That Papa Baked; reviewed below) creates almost magical rhythms in this pitch-perfect story. As the opening pages describe bedtime at the main character's urban house ("At night, after her brother and sister went to bed/ long after her parents whispered "Good night, happy dreams!" and went to sleep"), square watercolor panels move from scenes in the emptying hallway and into the girl's room. There, readers learn, she lies "AWAKE," and the blank space surrounding the single, jarring word contains all the feeling in the close-up of the girl's face, seen for the first time on the opposite page. The plot is so quiet it would escape a lesser writer: lured by a breeze, the girl brings pillows and bedding up to the roof, followed by her cat (and, unbeknown to her, by her mother). Bean makes a visual poetics of this concept as the square panels now yield to full-spread illustrations. The artist supplies luminous aerial scenes of the roof garden amid a friendly, well-lit cityscape, then zooms out for more panoramic views ("She thought about the wide world around her and smiled"). His eye returns to rest on an image of the girl and her cat, comfortable at last in an improvised bed, at home in the world. The story breathes reassurance and adventure at the same time just in case, after the girl has fallen asleep, the mother appears by her side. Ages 4-8.