For all but a few, the night is a foreign country.
Dreams are when the world turns upside down and inside out, and Bansch does a superb job illustrating its kooky-spooky state. Here, a dozen creatures settle in for the night: the elephant in the tall grass, the bird in its nest, the cat by the stove, the bat, wrapped in a red blanket, in its cave. The artwork is a sophisticated use of collage—for instance, beautiful examples of 19th-century European cartography become tree trunks—with color deployed for special effect and spidery linework adding a creepy-crawly quality. Dark shades are complemented by snappy red tulips in the elephant’s shadowy grass, and the polar bear’s cave is a luminous, delicate light blue. While the text is minimal, it is also evocative: “The dog slumbers in his cozy doghouse, / and the polar bear snores loudly in his ice cave.” Midbook, when the moon is full on one page and in full eclipse on the next, the book must be turned around and started from the other end. Then the youngest listeners will get the topsy-turvies of dreamtime: “But sometimes at night the elephant dreams in the bird’s nest, / the cat purrs in a burrow on a cushion of hay, / and the bird lies in the tall grass.” All’s fair in the Land of Nod, and inviting, too.
With the feel of a fine and handsome tintype, this Austrian import makes night newly beguiling. (Picture book. 2-6)