Review of Ancient Night

Ancient Night
by David Álvarez with David Bowles; illus. by David Álvarez
Preschool, Primary    Em Querido/Levine Querido    40 pp.
3/23    9781646142514    $18.99
Spanish ed.  9781646142545    $18.99
e-book ed.  9781646142859    $18.99

Rabbit keeps the moon shining brightly by trekking across the world to bring back aguamiel, “the precious, glowing nectar that brims in the heart of the first and holy maguey.” She fills a jug with this sweet agave sap, then pours it into the moon. Rabbit’s rival, Opossum, pokes a hole in the moon and steals the sap, thus unintentionally extinguishing the moonlight. Luckily, he remembers a treasure under the earth and brings back a pot of fire, “prepared by mighty gods as a gift for future humans who might shiver in the dark.” He sets this pot of burning sun high in the sky, and now he and Rabbit work together as ­Guardians of Light. Stunning illustrations by acclaimed Mexican artist Álvarez feature a velvety blue-black backdrop of a sky, stars providing only pinpricks of light, while the glowing moon is depicted as a round, two-handled jar. Opossum’s ­reddish-brown fur matches the terra cotta pot of fire he tends, and ­Rabbit’s fur is the same blue-green as the magical agave plant, whose spiny leaves curl gracefully upward, like an octopus floating in the dark sea of the night sky. Bowles (translator of The ­Sea-Ringed World, rev. 3/21) developed the text for this previously wordless book originally published in Mexico as Noche antigua. His spellbinding, poetic text is lyrical but crisp. A detailed note at the back explains that the tale is an original weaving together of several stories from Mesoamerica.

From the March/April 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Jennifer M. Brabander

Jennifer M. Brabander is former senior editor of The Horn Book Magazine. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature from Simmons University.

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