September 29, 2020

Night Walk

Written by Sara O'Leary
Illustrated by Ellie Arscott 
Groundwood Books
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
September 2020

I think a lot of us have sleepless nights, nights during which we are "owl-eyed" and our heads churn. When this little girl can't sleep, her dad offers her a solution in a Night Walk.
From Night Walk by Sara O'Leary, illus. by Ellie Arscott
So pulling on boots, hat and coat over her pajamas, the child joins her father in a walk "just to be out." As might be expected, everything looks different at night, as they walk "from one island of light to the next like explorers," peeking into the lit windows of people's late-night lives. There's the variety store's sad-looking woman joyously welcoming a baby in her apartment above. There are people at restaurants or eating at home. Others are walking dogs or cycling or traveling by bus. One man plays his violin to his pets on his deck decorated with fairy lights.  Everywhere there is life and colour, sound and quiet.
From Night Walk by Sara O'Leary, illus. by Ellie Arscott

A final stop on their Night Walk takes the child and her father to the playground where she recognizes that this community of people and places, which she usually only experiences in the daylight hours, is her home and where she wants to be.

From Night Walk by Sara O'Leary, illus. by Ellie Arscott 

Sara O'Leary loves to give us a child's perspective on the ordinary which becomes extraordinary through their eyes and she has done the same with Night Walk. By seeing her community, one she passes through regularly during the day, at a different time and lit from outside by the moon and streetlights and from within by lamps, the child sees differently and is amazed. It's this wonder that Sara O'Leary, whose previous works include A Family is a Family is a Family and When I Was Small, captures in the depth and simplicity of the child's words and thoughts. They are told from her perspective and with her voice, and the fascination with this new world is unmistakable.
From Night Walk by Sara O'Leary, illus. by Ellie Arscott

This is Toronto artist Ellie Arscott's first picture book but she matches the marvel of the child's experience with illustrations that reflect the sweeping landscape of the neighbourhood. In her watercolour and ink artwork, Ellie Arscott takes the homes and businesses and people in the community from the backdrop into the all-around i.e., foreground, middle ground and background. The reader will still always be able to pick out the child in her bright red vest but Ellie Arscott makes us feel like we are seeing the world from the young girl's point of view and it is this world that is the star of Night Walk.

I hope that there will always be someone to guide a young child on a Night Walk of discovery, safe in their community and open to all the lights that shine.

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