A lad is tormented by existential boojums every night in this comically eerie variation on a common bedtime trope.
No sooner do his parents bid him sweet dreams and switch off the light than the ceiling becomes “a black hole…black and infinite”—through which float small creatures of diverse shape who stand around his bed and stare at him fixedly. At last, the arrival of a slit-eyed blot that reaches out with twiggy tentacles and whispers, “I am what there is before there is anything there,” sends him pelting toward the parental bedroom. “It’s just your imagination,” soothes his mother, oblivious to the creature that floats into view on the last page. Liniers depicts the grown-ups from neck down to create a child-level perspective, but his dot-eyed, angst-ridden protagonist could be any age. Heavily crosshatched shadows and nighttime visitors with mildly grotesque features add appropriately spooky notes. Snuggling between parents (“But this is the last time”) banishes those boogeymen, right? Wrong.
The book is brilliant in its confirmation of an essential truth of childhood, but that doesn’t make it any less unsettling, though possibly more for adult readers than for children. (Picture book. 6-8)