CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 12. . . .November 21, 2014
The Goodnight Book is a sweet, brief collection of pictures that are connected by the theme of parents and their children saying goodnight. It begins with three goodnight phrases in English, French and Spanish and moves on to made-up phrases, such as those seen in the excerpt, ending with, “How do you say goodnight?”
Each goodnight phrase occupies its own illustration, appearing in a speech balloon as two or more creatures fall asleep together. The atmosphere is gentle and loving, with the rounded painting-like illustrations done in mostly soft, creamy colors like chocolaty browns, minty greens and piglet pinks. There are no hard angles, sharp outlines or stark contrasts. The overall impression is similar to that of a baby blanket, the kind that is of blue flannel with duckies on it.
I can see this book being used as a comforting bedtime ritual, with caregivers making up their own imaginary phrases with children as the book ends and it is time to go to sleep. The language is very simple, even the imaginary words (which are recognizably based on existing words). This might help to make the concept of the wordplay more accessible to younger children than if the phrases were completely unfamiliar. The Goodnight Book would make a good board book or flannel book as it seems appropriate for very young children, and there are fewer pages than typical in a picturebook (16 as opposed to 32).
The lack of pages, however, does give a somewhat rushed feeling to the reading experience. The quiet, gently playful atmosphere of the book reminds me of the repetitive goodnight sequence in Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd, and calls for a measured reading with some pauses in between each illustration. Having the illustrations across double spreads and creating a pause as the reader turns the page would have been very natural, as in the beginning when we see goodnights in English, French and Spanish. As the book progresses, however, a goodnight scene appears on every page instead of once every two pages, giving the impression that the story is speeding up its pace instead of slowing down; the final question comes as a rather abrupt ending. I would have preferred the same format throughout. Nevertheless, it is a cuddly and charming book.
Sae Yong Kim has an MA in Children’s Literature and is now studying in the MLIS program at the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies, University of British Columbia, BC.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.