________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 8 . . . . October 23, 2015


The Night Children.

Sarah Tsiang. Illustrated by Delphine Bodet.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2015.
32 pp., hc., html & pdf, $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-723-7 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55451-724-4 (html), ISBN 978-1-55451-725-1 (pdf).

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 3-7.

Review by Gregory Bryan and Andrea Boyd.

*** /4



It is the night children who string gossamer webs across doorways and trees, sticky traps for flies and children.

It is the night children who climb the roof, quiet as mice, and steal slices of the moon.

Many children are afraid of the dark or, more to the point, they fear the unknown creatures that might lurk there. Sarah Tsiang and Delphine Bodet's book, The Night Children, reveals just what is hidden within that darkness. The author and illustrator reassure readers that it is nothing to fear. It is simply the field upon which the mischievous night children come out to play. They emerge once the rest of the world falls fast asleep.

      There is a somewhat mysterious and dreamlike quality to the text and illustrations, but it is enticing, rather than disturbing or alarming. Tsiang is an award-winning poet. Her strongly evocative word choices, such as scurry and scutter, and Bodet's muted autumnal palette is suggestive of Halloween, as are the masks worn by the children who appear in the night. The children almost glow against the night sky, making them stand out within the softly textured pictures. They are illuminated in such a way that there is nothing neither fearful nor sombre about them. While we people of the day are sleeping, they frolic and play in the twilight, chasing fireflies, etching designs into frosty windows, and ripping leaves from trees.

      When read aloud, Tsiang's lyrical text rolls from the tongue. Her skilful, precise, and evocative word choices paint pictures of their own, but they, in turn, are well complemented by Bodet's artwork. The illustrations reflect the half-light of dusk and coming dawn rather than the true darkness of deep night, but this is, in itself, an appropriate choice. It lends more of that peaceful calm to the book than would otherwise have been the case with the use of stark blacks.

      As young children drift off to sleep, they will find within the pages of the book the comfort conducive to peaceful slumber. Tsiang's penchant for the letter S is seen repeatedly through her alliterations: The night children shrug on shadows, startle cats into singing, string sticky webs, and steal slices of the moon. Read aloud, the "sss" sound at the beginning of these words sounds almost like the soft breath of sleeping children.

      The skillful use of light and muted colours draws the eye into and through each picture. The curved lines and soft colours that are a feature of almost every illustration lend a soothing softness to the artwork perfectly in keeping with the text.

      The book invites a read-aloud audience to close their eyes and use their imaginations to dream up their own versions of what these events might look like. We believe The Night Children is worthy of a place on home bookshelves, but it is more likely to be appreciated by older readers than by the young audience hearing the book read aloud to them as a bedtime story.

      It is a lovely book. All that said though, The Night Children is not likely to have wide appeal. Despite the quality of the writing and the artwork, the book somehow lacks some key feature to grab and hold a young reader. It meanders—appropriately for a bedtime book—where young listeners might want more energy and vigour to arouse their interest.


Dr. Gregory Bryan is a member of the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba. He specialises in literature for children.

Andrea Boyd is a student in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba. She enjoys reading children's literature and travelling around the globe.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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.
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ISSN 1201-9364
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