Mordicai Gerstein, The Night World
Published 2015 by Little, Brown and Company
One night when I was four, I awoke in the dark. I called to my father: “Daddy, I have to pee!” He carried me to the bathroom, but on the way back to bed, we went through the kitchen. Out the window, where the familiar backyard should have been, I saw a place I’d never seen before, full of dark shadows and strange silvery shapes.
“Where’s the backyard?” I asked.
“You’re looking at it,” said my father.
“No,” I said. “That’s the night world. It’s not for me.” I knew I would go out and explore it when I was a grown-up, but not now.
The next morning, my backyard had returned to where it had always been.
I’ve also been a great watcher of sunrises; to me, they are like watching the creation of the world.
Mordicai Gerstein poetically explains in a note at the end of The Night World. The story originates in his amazement when absorbed by darkness, an insight gained in his childhood and kept along life.
The night world is not a time of anxiety but an occasion of intensity and radiance. The moment the human eye adjusts to the absence of light, there is an emotional response to darkness’s magic and unique rhythm.
A boy is taken outside in the middle of the night by his cat, Sylvie. Painted as two black shapes, the child and the animal open the door to enter a fascinating world, living a spectacular experience. The familiar neighbourhood reveals itself as bizarre and unexplored, painted by Gerstein as a parade of shadows and dark silhouettes.
The boy explores the night with admiration and curiosity having no fears or presentiments. He marvels at the contours of the flowers and listens to the song of the night birds. The ultimate step to a glorious, natural beauty is a glow through the leaves of the trees. A spectacle of light begins and grows in intensity with every turn of the page. Clouds turn pink and orange and darkness is replaced by bright coulours.
The end of the book is an explosion of light, a celebration of sunrise and rebirth of nature which Gerstein sees as a symbol for life, energy and hope.
Complement The Night World with Lemony Snicket’s The Dark, an ingenious picture book that speaks about the fear of the dark.