Nina learns that a firefly is a great night light—initially.
The illustrations are top-notch, with the appearance of black-and-white scratchboard, sparsely highlighted with a red shirt here, a yellow glow there. The text is both matter-of-fact and descriptive: “Nina was scared of the dark, so it was good she had a night-light, which made things better. Then one night… / the electricity went out. Nina watched as scary shadows crept across her walls. Every noise sounded like the whispering of monsters.” An exciting illustration that looks more like a fireworks display than a normal firefly-spangled night prefaces Nina’s trip to trap a firefly in a jar. Unfortunately, observant, bug-savvy readers will notice the lack of holes in the jar’s lid. (Those conversant with fireflies' unique needs will also take alarm at the absence of a moist paper towel within.) This mars the humor of the following pages, in which Nina engages in many activities by the firefly’s light until the insect is almost dead. Nina tries showing the bug several things to “make his light stronger—a battery, a wind-up key, her favorite chocolate bar”—until she hits on the right solution and frees it. (Whew!) Children who regularly spend time with bugs may well be so distressed at the firefly’s peril that they will be unable to enjoy the story. The grand finale is lovely, but the story does a disservice by not acknowledging the firefly’s grave danger.
Charming artwork and some funny moments, marred by disingenuousness. (Picture book. 3-6)