Two scared campers encounter a frightening creature in Craig’s (Farmyard Beat, 2012, etc.) picture book with illustrations from Dunkley (Twenty Poems for Boys, 2016, etc.).
As the story opens, an illustration of a sleeping owl accompanies a phrase that repeats throughout the book: “Oh the forest is so quiet, oh so quiet in the night.” Then there’s a strange flapping noise, and two boys in a tent look out into the darkness to figure out what’s lurking there. The illustration for the first noise shows clearly that the flapping sound is just coming from a bat—a typical forest animal with a friendly expression. Soon the refrain repeats against a backdrop of the boys playing cards in their well-lit tent as an old, well-loved teddy bear looks over their shoulders. Once again, a noise startles them; this time, they discover a group of well-dressed, squeaky mice playing on a leaf trampoline. The boys return to their tent, and a third noise startles them back out—the howling of two foxes, which has them just about ready to give up on their outdoor adventure. But then one of the boys sees what he thinks is a squirrel and grins at their silliness. Of course, it’s a skunk that sprays, and the noises all return, sending the boys into a tizzy. Luckily, Daddy’s on hand to keep the boys brave—until, that is, a bear shows up. Daddy and the boys head home to the comfy indoors, but all the noisy forest animals are equally startled, leading to a twist that will surprise both young readers and grown-ups. The limited vocabulary and repeating text make this book a good confidence-builder for newly independent readers, and lap readers will enjoy chiming in with their parents. But the real fun is the storytelling in Dunkley’s illustrations, which offer much detail and humor, whether it’s in the boys' reactions or in the playfulness of the animals. The color palate and adorable animal characters will have young readers poring over the pictures even if they can’t read it on their own. The surprising plot twists—and text that’s uncomplicated without being boring—will make adults glad to return to this bedtime story with their children.
A charmingly clever ode to backyard camping and the fun of spending time in nature, with a good bit of humor rolled into its colorful illustrations.