As we reach the deepest, hottest days of summer, these two new picture books capture the quiet, magical moments that occur during those times.
“The Night is Yours” (2019, Dial Books, written by Abdul-Razak Zachariah, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo, ages 4-8) is an empowering tribute from a father to his daughter.
Beginning with the words, “Little one, so calm and so happy, this is your night,” we find a young girl named Amani (which means wishes) who “escapes her apartment’s walls” on a hot summer evening to “grab the cool breeze in the courtyard.” Nighttime is when wishes feel the most real, her father reflects.
As Amani laughs and looks at the moon and stars, and plays hide-and-seek with the other children in the courtyard, the narrator (who we see at the end is her father) reflects, “The night is an extension of your skin, all of you children, blending in when you want it to and popping out when you want it to, because the darkness of the night is yours like the darkness of your skin.”
The story progresses, and now Amani is “it” in the game of hide-and-seek and frustrated at not being able to find the last person hiding. Her father sends her strength, saying, “You know that some things aren’t easy.” And when Amani patiently remembers the moon up above, and follows its light to find the last hider, her father celebrates with her saying, “Go ahead, dance together in celebration! Show everyone else how to embrace the night like you. Teach them how to be a night-owning girl like you.”
After her friends have been called inside, her father gives her a few extra minutes by herself to reflect, saying quietly, “This is your night, my Amani!” Stunning paintings capture the poetry, joy and life of this moving, lyrical tribute.
It is also a summer day when Albert leaves his small home in the city, book in hand, trying to find some quiet, in “Albert’s Quiet Quest” (2019, Random House, written and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, ages 4-8). The black-and-white pen and ink drawings show him as he finds a quiet place in a nearby alley, and sees a painting of a beach, colored with orange sun and sand, and blue sky. Sitting down with his book, he looks longingly at the picture, until he becomes part of the beach, quietly enjoying the sun, sand and peace.
Then, however, other children come along. “Hey, Albert! Do you want to garden with us?” speech bubbles show the conversation unfolding in cartoon like panels. Albert tells them, “No, thanks, I’m reading,” and they become part of his imagined beach scene, a full page spread, happy and peaceful.
However, as more children show up, wanting to play badminton and more, the imagined beach scene becomes more and more hectic and loud. Finally, it’s more than he can take and Albert slams his book shut. “That’s it!” he shouts. “QUIET!!”
His friends look as if they are leaving, upset. But they are not. Instead, in a lovely twist, each of them takes a book of their own, circles around Albert, reading quietly.
Smiling, Albert says, “Hey guys I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to –”
A page turn shows his friends saying “Shhh!” but they are not upset. The final page turn shows a happy scene, Albert and his friends quietly sitting together on his imagined beach, watching the sun set.
This cleverly told story and its energetic illustrations are sure to please.