Friday, November 16, 2012

30 Days of Picture Books - Nighttime Ninja by Barbara DaCosta

Happy Friday and Happy Day 16 of Picture Book Month! We love the weekend around here, and we try to squeeze in as much family time -- and as many books -- as we can. For us the weekend often means a trip to the library or bookstore (or both), and we usually come home loaded down with lots of treasures to read together.

On one of our weekend bookstore trips I spied today's choice, and though I didn't get to read it in the store, I was able to find it at the library. Please indulge me in a brief diversion from describing today's pick to extol the virtues of the library. If you don't regularly go to your local library, you absolutely need to start the habit. Today's libraries are nothing like the quiet spaces of old. Nowadays libraries, especially in the children's department, are vibrant, bustling places full of color, activity, programs, and oodles of materials. It's not just books: you can get DVDs, audiobooks, magazines, toys, ebooks and loads of other things from your library collection, at no charge. Where else are you going to find such a bargain? I'm not exaggerating when I say we'd be lost without our library card -- we are addicted and I'd have it no other way!

OK, now on to today's pick, which is Nighttime Ninja by Barbara DaCosta. This book is really a visual stunner, from the cover to the end papers to the vivid, complex picture spreads. If you're not familiar with Ed Young, the Caldecott Medalist who created these illustrations, you're in for a treat. Young uses layouts that at first appear simple, but the more you look at them, the more you see. The spreads are done with mixed media collage, combining papers and fabrics into a rich blend of texture and color.

The story is subtle in this one, but none the less powerful. At night, a ninja quietly wends his way through a sleeping house, with his destination firmly fixed. Then suddenly, the house is ablaze with light -- the ninja has been caught! I won't spoil the surprise of what happens next, but it's probably not what you're expecting. I love the sly wit of DaCosta's narrative, and the simplicity of the story make it a good fit for older toddlers and preschoolers.

Sprout's favorite bit is the cover, as he is completely delighted the sight of the ninja peeking out between layers of clothing and bamboo fronds. If you're a crafty sort (which I'm not, though I do try), this would make the perfect title to pair with an art project - check out this post from Barbara DaCosta's website for inspiration!

Nighttime Ninja by Barbara DaCosta, published by Little, Brown and Company

No comments: