CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 20. . . .January 29, 2016
The little hedgehog has been woken up, and he’s not happy about it. But someone has turned on the light. Then turned it off again. Then back on. In fact, it’s you, the reader of the book, who is in charge of the light switch. The little hedgehog then engages in a battle of wits with the reader to regain the power of the light switch in this interactive picture book, only to find that the reason for the illuminating interruption was something he had asked for before going to bed.
This is the first picture book that I’ve read that uses all parts of the book, including the dust cover, to tell the story. The front dust cover flap sets up the whole story, explaining to the reader that they are a character in the book and the one responsible for turning on the light by turning the page. The only problem was that my role in the book didn’t register as such the first time I read it. Part of me appreciated this different approach to engage readers, but I was also very confused since I didn’t realize that I, as the reader, was supposed to be a character in the book. It wasn’t until I got to the end of the book that I fully understood what my role as a reader was, and then, armed with new knowledge of the part that I was to play, I went back to reread the story. Overall, the idea is smart and creative, but Turn Off That Light! doesn’t properly introduce the book’s concept clearly, and the premise is lost in the book design.
The full bleed, colour illustrations are bright and bold and paired well with the text. The shapes are simple, with lots of colour and sharp contrasts to engage the eye. The cartoon hedgehog is cute and dynamic, showing the many emotions that go along with being woken up for seemingly no reason. Pages alternate between black and bright, simulating the bedroom light’s being turned on and off. In the middle of the story, the action ramps up, and a double-page spread is separated into a comic strip, showing the comedic actions the hedgehog undertakes in the battle for the light switch. However, I was a little lost at the climax of the book when the hedgehog builds his own light. The illustration is full of the toys and things that can be found in the hedgehog’s bedroom (including a sneaky tribute to Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant), yet the towering structure does not seem to include a lamp.
The text is sparse but effective, and uses a lot of onomatopoeia to describe the action, including the “Click” for the light turning on and off. I appreciated the little noises and sounds the hedgehog makes throughout as they add to the sense of frustration of the hedgehog and amplify the humour of the situation.
The premise of Turn Off that Light! is strong and universal; the ability or inability to sleep because of certain environmental factors is something everyone, young or old, faces. I’m just not sure that every young reader will be intuitive enough to place themselves inside the story as a character in the book on the first read or would know to start their narrative experience at the dust cover.
Stacey Matson is a writer and literacy programmer living in Vancouver. She recently finished her MA in children’s literature at the University of British Columbia. She is the author of the Arthur Bean: Total Genius trilogy, published with Scholastic Canada.
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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.
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.