There’s something about the text from certain vintage children’s books that is refreshingly quirky; it probably helps that they were not edited to death like how some of the contemporary children’s books can be, such that every word sounds overly polished — and predictably dull, politically correct and uninspired. Hence, it is nice to see some of these out-of-print gems being given a new lease of life by publishers who are remastering the old books or refreshing the text with new illustrations.
Which brings us to It Is Night, a 1953 classic by Phyllis Rowand that has been updated with the winsome paintings of Laura Dronzek.
Crafted in the structure of a Q&A, the author gets the reader to think about where certain animals/objects — a bear, a rooster, a rabbit, a duck, a cat, a seal, a dog, an elephant, a train, dolls, a mouse and a monkey — rest at night, before answering the question when the page is turned.
While there are other books that also successfully address the question of where and how animals sleep, the way in which it is answered here is playful and surprising — i.e. not at all cliched — which makes for an entertaining read that doesn’t get stale. And just when you think you’ve got the book all figured out, the author throws a brilliant curveball that makes perfect sense of the seemingly random assortment of animals and objects featured. The book’s resolution will also resonate sweetly with kids — and wryly with their parents.
The years (61, to be exact!) have been kind to the text, which still reads exceptionally well today. The gentle pacing and soothing rhythm of the words are also entirely fitting with the book’s bedtime/sleep theme, and complement the fuzzy, cozy illustrations of the sleepy animals and objects in a nocturnal milieu, combining to produce a charming bedtime classic.
p.s. There will likely be a few pedantic objections to the not-entirely-‘correct’ depiction of where the dog/cat/rabbit sleeps at night, but it’s all part of what makes the book special. Plus, this book is hardly an instructional manual by any stretch and really shouldn’t be read as such.