Title: Flashlight Night
Author: Matt Forrest Esenwine
Illustrator: Fred Koehler
Publisher: Boyds Mills Press, Sept 2017
Themes: nighttime, adventure, flashlights, bookish inspiration
…opens up the night.
Flashlight Night is an ode to the power of imagination and the wonder of books. Three children use a flashlight to light a path around their backyard at night; in the flashlight’s beam another world looms. Our heroes encounter spooky woods, a fearsome tiger, a time-forgotten tomb, an Egyptian god, a sword-fighting pirate, and a giant squid. With ingenuity, they vanquish all, then return to their tree house–braver, closer, and wiser than before–to read the books that inspired their adventure.
Why I like this book:
Often we use flashlights with kids to highlight that it was just their vivid imaginations creating the scary stuff! Here Matt and Fred turn that on its head with the gentle rhyming text and extraordinary world-building and textual artwork. The shadowy artwork perfectly matches the just slightly creepier than normal for a picture book narrative, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality but evoking children’s make-believe. Every page is its own adventure and this will need to be a slow read to allow children to enter the story of each double-paged spread.
The sparse language is poetic and emotional, and an invitation to exploration and imagination.
Leads you past old post and rail
along a long-forgotten trail
into woods no others dare,
for fear of what is waiting there.
I was fortunate enough to attend a publisher’s breakfast with the illustrator at ALA in June. Fred Koehler shared to illustration journey of this picture book, physically and metaphorically. He actually took a trip to the UK where her traveled north and south by train with is sketchbook to find inspiration from some of the ancient sites and locations for FLASHLIGHT NIGHT. The artwork packs an emotional punch as well as a visual one. Quite stunning.
Don’t miss this interview I did with the illustrator, Fred Koehler.
Encourage kids (just this once) to read it under their covers with their own flashlight!
Flashlight storytelling is an obvious spinoff from this story!
If you are in Florida, there is a museum display at the Polk Museum of Art in which each original piece of artwork for the book is displayed with the text beneath it; viewers are guided along so they can “read” the book as they marvel at illustrator Fred Koehler‘s work.
Find more “Perfect Picture Book Friday” reviews at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog HERE.