In Pinkney’s sumptuous elaboration of the familiar lullaby a chipmunk’s nighttime odyssey takes on the same epic scope as his Caldecott winning The Lion and the Mouse (2009).
Seamlessly tweaking a later version of the multi-verse 1806 original with minor changes in wording and repeated insertions of the first two lines as a chorus, the illustrator follows a furry traveler—who is often posed as if in song—through verdant tangles of dandelions and other flowers, up a tree and into an empty robin’s nest. With a turn of the page, that nest is transformed into a small boat (and the chipmunk acquires a sailor suit) that sails into the starry sky. The adventure briefly takes on an anxious cast when a gust topples the tiny explorer into a pond of much larger fish and other creatures, but a swan glides to the rescue and gently wings its little passenger up to the smiling Moon. Rendering natural details with typical accuracy, Pinkney fills his intimate watercolor close-ups with rippling leaves and rhythmic shifts of color that simultaneously create a feeling of active, if dreamlike energy while echoing the poem’s quiet cadences. He intersperses wordless interludes, either single pictures or short sequences, to create a unified story line and finishes with a final view of the dreamer curled up (still in that sailor suit) on a bed of soft leaves and down.
Just another superb outing from a fixed star twinkling in the children’s-literature firmament. (Picture book. 3-6)