Late one night, a ninja creeps out of the shadows, intent on a mission in a quiet, sleeping house. In the moonlight, he moves stealthily and steadily toward his goal. Will he get what he wants in the new picture book Nighttime Ninja by Barbara DaCosta?
Well, first off, the cover image might give a tiny clue about this “ninja’s” identity. Don’t those eyes look a wee bit child-like? Though the initial illustrations portray the silhouette of a black-clad adult ninja, rope on his hip, when the lights come on suddenly, we see a small figure looking up at a not-so-happy mother. Getting caught red-handed (cold-handed, would be a better description… you can imagine what his mission was, right?), this little ninja is quickly sent back to bed, mission unfortunately unaccomplished.
Besides the adorable little twist to the story, this picture book conveys a lushness in both language and illustrations. As the nighttime ninja moves through the house, the text on the pages vividly describes his movements with words like climbed, clambered, crept, and leapt. And then there is the art work, which in Ed Young‘s hands is as remarkable as ever. Cut paper, textured cloth, string and colored pencil are the materials of choice for this book, and the result is a layered and rich appearance that differs from the traditional two-dimensional look of typical picture book illustrations. Every page is a visual feast with patterns and designs full of interest.
Nighttime Ninja will surely become a bedtime story favorite in my house, and I encourage you to check it out with your own little ninjas. If you happen to live in the Washington DC area, be sure to check out the upcoming National Book Festival on the National Mall, September 22-23, where Ed Young will be one of the featured author/illustrators!
Dawn’s love for picture books goes way back, and in her jobs as both a preschool teacher and a mom, she gets to read picture books every single day to captive audiences. When she can find a few quiet minutes, she blogs away at my thoughts exactly.