Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Night World by Mordicai Gerstein

The Night World by Mordicai Gerstein
Little, Brown and Company

Rating: 5 stars

I read this book just a few days after our family camped out together for the very first time. At my husband's suggestion, he and the kids slept "under the stars"--which meant on top of a tarp, on a thin camping pad, inside their sleeping bags. But under nothing else. I slept in the tent he'd already set up, thinking someone would join me during the night. But no one did.

The kids were excited, and though we have good kids who like a good adventure, I was still surprised that there was no complaining during the two hours it took for them to fall asleep. For kids who normally go inside and up to bed around 7:30, there was a whole lot to see. Night unfolded in acts: bats flew erratically over them, birds chirped loudly, fireflies flashed on and off, the sky darkened, the birds stopped singing, stars began to shine. The fell asleep sometime around 9:30, and slept solidly until they all awoke, wet with dew, the next morning.

They fell asleep at the beginning of The Night World, looking at a sky very similar to the sky at which the boy on the cover gazes. In the book, a cat, Sylvie, wakes the boy, wanting to go out. The two of them creep through the house--dark bodies in dark rooms, with only the words on the pages and their eyes bright white.

Sylvie says mysteriously, "It's coming. Hurry!" as the two creep along. The reader starts to wonder, starts to get pulled into the mystery just as the boy does. They walk outside to the deliciously wet, quiet, and dark world. The white stars glitter off the page.
The glow flares above the trees.
Clouds turn pink and orange.

They see parts of the night, but they also see animals, who are just as excited about what is about to happen. "It's almost time!" they cry out.

The animals and the boy become the audience for what happens, the same thing that happens every morning, the same miracle we witness, the same gift we're given... The sky lightens gradually, casting shadows on the animals, a glow forms, and the clouds become rich with color. As the animals begin to slip away, just the boy and Sylvie remain to absorb dawn's first, magical light.

They say good morning to each other, filled with sunshine and hope and eagerness for the day ahead.

I love how Gerstein creates an entire story around the magic of a sunrise. Having just seen my three kids' enthusiasm while watching day turn into night, I know it's no exaggeration that kids believe in the beauty of a simple, daily act of nature.

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