CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 22. . . .February 13, 2015
A collection of slightly eerie, slightly surreal, and very brief tales comprise Canadian singer-songwriter John Southworth’s first children’s book. Daydreams for Night is a mechanical mixture of 13 very pithy tales (less than a page in length) strung together by David Ouimet’s complex illustrations. Each tale is relayed in a slightly eerie, and yet very calm and direct manner about beings and situations both fantastical and real. The tales are open-ended and lack any real introduction, resolution, or development; but rather, they serve as glimpses into momentary situations in people’s lives. Southworth – being a musician – has written a collection of works that are somewhat lyrical in nature (although they are clearly prose) – due to their imagination, style, and open-ended interpretive qualities.
Daydreams for Night is suitable for any audience: children, parents, teachers, or librarians, but would really be useful only for very specific purposes. The text would serve in an exercise where students are asked to bring meaning to the text (for instance, by asking the whys or the hows of a tale); or, in a creative writing exercise or discussion where students or readers are asked to begin or end the tales for the author or to write a background story. Some tales would also serve as a brief and simple introduction to the concept of magical realism (for instance, “The Adventure of Big Lou and Little Louise”). Regardless of the potential uses of the work, it often falls short in its execution; some tales feel nonsensical and meaningless, and it may be challenging to generate enthusiasm or engagement from readers when the text demands constant explanation and the tales are often too brief to become invested in.
Ouimet’s illustrations are unique and very Edward Gorey-esque. The complex, black and white, highly detailed illustrations tie the writing together and are suitable for the target audience – just eerie enough to remain in the imagination. At times, it feels as though the book is more about the illustrations than it is about the prose – it is more a work of art than a piece of literature. While the work may serve some purpose in the classroom and on the shelves, it should not be expected to circulate well or be sought out very often.
Recommended with Reservations.
Julianne Mutimer is a children’s librarian with Surrey Libraries in Surrey, 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.