Monday, April 14, 2008

review: The House in the Night

The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson. Illustrated by Beth Krommes. Houghton Mifflin, 2008 (978-0-618-86244-3) $17.00

(This book will be available in May, 2008)

The cover of The House in the Night is a scratchboard illustration of a dark little house in a dark little forest; a dog peeps out the open window, stars glimmer, a stylized moon smiles above. The combination of plump, rounded shapes and scattered spots of glowing yellow lights amid blackness gives the scene an enticing air of cozy mystery. That feeling continues throughout the book, as a little girl and her dog are given "the key to the house." In the house burns a light, in that light rests a bed, on that bed rests a book, and in that book waits... a flying adventure in the starry dark.

A terse, cumulative text sucks us into this story, eager to see what each new page will bring. The pictures (by the illustrator of Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow, winner of the 2006 Cybil for poetry) continue the theme of peaceful wondering: amidst surroundings made cozy with cats and flowers and teddy bears, and constant touches of yellow light to highlight the quietness of the primary black & white, the little girl is constantly on the move, seeking something. As she has her adventure, flying through the night sky, the pictures grow more exotic and surprising in each scene, showing giant, other-worldly flowers and a moon beaming with far-flung rays of light.

Both text and pictures wind themselves back up perfectly, retracing a path back to warmth and familiarity, leaving readers satisfied and comforted and at peace with the night. What more could you ask for from a bedtime book. * (2-6)

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