A young girl and her mother soothe themselves to sleep during a power outage in modern urban India, despite how sorely they both miss Maya's dead Papa.
Slim as this plot is, the evocative text and illustrations conspire to tell and show a story that is more than the sum of its parts. The deep purples, blues, and greens and the rich blacks of MacKay's constructed “paper theater” art convey both the scariness and the magic of nighttime. These moody darks are perfectly contrasted and illuminated by the glow of candlelight, oil lamps, and the lights of distant neighborhoods. Though he’s gone, Papa’s presence is palpable in the tenderness between Maya and Mumma. The book contrasts dark and light, the modern Indian city and the mythical banyan tree jungle of the bedtime story Mumma tells, the sadness of Papa's absence and the closeness between Maya and her mother. Maya's willing imagination conjures the beautiful visual and aural image of a "growling" autorickshaw that becomes a tiger. Following her mother's lead, Maya understands that the tiger is but scratching an itch and that the snake is just rustling leaves as it moves. When she embraces the nighttime animals of her imagination as friends, she can at last hear the tune of her father's familiar, lulling whistle.
Jain and MacKay's story and art work seamlessly to convey an important and subtle story of love, loss, beauty, and joy. (Picture book. 4-10)