Review of On a Summer Night

On a Summer NightOn a Summer Night
by Deborah Hopkinson; illus. by Kenard Pak
Preschool    Chronicle    56 pp.
5/24    9781797200132    $18.99

In this quiet cumulative story, everyone—and everything—wakens, one by one. Who has woken the girl, the cat, the dog, the rabbit, the tree, the air, and the cloud? The reader and protagonist seek answers together, prodded by Hopkinson’s hushed prose and direct address and Pak’s full-bleed illustrations that switch between placing the reader in the protagonist’s point of view and offering an omniscient perspective. Pak renders nighttime digitally in shades of purple and black with deep green landscapes and glowing accents that spotlight the sleep-depriving suspects. Throughout, words and art harmoniously convey nighttime magic. When Hopkinson writes, “Now a sweet ribbon of breath curls around you too,” Pak depicts the girl grasping a wispy, textured “breath” of air. Drama builds with the refrain, “Was it you?” on cleverly designed spreads interspersed between the nocturnal scenes. Moonlight begins as a small corner of yellow in the bottom right of an otherwise solid purple spread, then progressively expands up and toward the verso on the next five pages, until finally, yellow moonlight overtakes the purple darkness. And then, in reverse order of their awakening, everyone returns to sleep as moonlight follows the girl upstairs and literally blankets her and her cat. In the final illustration, an all-yellow double-page spread reads, “Who has woken the moon?” A memorable celebration of nighttime activity and moonlit slumber.

From the March/April 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Shelley Isaacson

Shelley Isaacson teaches children’s literature at Simmons University and Tufts University. She holds an MA in Children’s Literature and an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons and a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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