by Barbara DaCosta; illus. by Ed Young
Preschool Little, Brown 32 pp.
9/12 978-0-316-20384-5 $16.99
Silently, in the dark of night, a ninja creeps through a house. While the family sleeps, he stealthily embarks on his mission. “Hand over hand, the ninja climbed and clambered. Step by step, he balanced and leapt.” It’s not until two-thirds of the way through the book that the lights are turned on and our nimble ninja is revealed to be a young boy on the prowl for a midnight snack. Since Mom catches him in the act, the mission remains incomplete, but all ends happily and cozily for the nighttime ninja. On the surface, this is a simple story, a glimpse into the imagination of a child and the tender relationship between mother and son. Young’s art, however, perfectly pairs with the minimal text. His cut-paper and cloth illustrations do the heavy lifting here, imbuing the tale with mystery, beauty, and emotion. When we are inside the boy’s imagination, the colors are blues, browns, and purples. The illustrations are dominated by the black silhouette of a ninja in movement and framed by a gold and black border. When the ninja is discovered and the story abruptly enters reality, the palette changes to bold, warm reds, yellows, and oranges. The final spread, showing the boy’s bedroom, is filled with texture and comforting detail (for instance, Mom’s colorful robe is created using paper that has been folded and creased, showing age and softness). A spare text loaded with tension paired with evocative illustrations make this a bedtime story that will be asked for again and again. Just hope it doesn’t give all the little ninjas out there too many ideas.
From the November/December 2012 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.