“Fight the Night” by Tomie dePaola “Hey Tomie! This Picture Book Couldn’t Have Come at a Better Time”
For those of you that read Liz’s Book Snuggery, you already know that I am an avid friend and fan of author/illustrator, Tomie dePaola, not just as a sublime picture book author, but as someone who knows the territory of a child’s heart, who has charted it in over two hundred books and received numerous awards and accolades as long as your arm.
I’ve recently done blogs on two reissued books of his and they are:
“God is Great God is Good” – taken from the Sanna Anderson Baker’s narrative on the Book of Job, celebrating the beauty of the earth, with illustrations by Tomie dePaola.
“The Book of Esther” – The story of the heroic Queen Esther from the Old Testament.
Fight the Night is a reissue of Tomie’s spirited 1968 picture book that could not have come at a better time.
Picture post suppertime with Ronald and his cat Walter with a group of friends having a good old time playing tag and hide-and-seek when Mom pokes her head out the screen door with the traditional:
“Time to go to bed, Ronald”. Tell your friends good night.”
“I don’t want to go to bed yet,” said Ronald.
“We want to play some more.”
Right there, Tomie has captured a moment played out in children’s lives forever. Mom calls just when things are cookin.’
And Ronald ups the stakes as he climbs the stairs to his bedroom:
“Even if I have to go to bed, I won’t sleep, said Ronald.
“I will stay up all Night!”
“All right, says Mama, ‘but when the Night comes, it will make you fall asleep.”
“The Night is not my friend. It always comes at the wrong time.”
“I will fight the Night,” said Ronald, and he got his flashlight. he put on his helmet and cape and pulled the covers over his head waiting for the Night to come.
It’s pretty ingenious to give the Night a persona, for kids to imagine. It does indeed come on a regular daily basis, as well-timed as clockwork, and for kids, it does interrupt whatever they have going on at the time, which, in the mind of childhood, is all important and the heck with the Night.
What follows is Ronald’s battle with the Night. With his striped PJ’s on, a blanket for a cape, flashlight in hand, and his head with a handled pot backwards atop his head, he awaits the Night.
Even Walter the cat weighs in with a:
“You are silly.”
Quietly the Night makes its presence known:
The voice whispered, “”I’m the Night.
“Let’s fight,” said Ronald, and he began to swing his flashlight around.
“You will never catch me,” said the Night.
And what commences is a game of hide and seek, cat and mouse between Ronald and the Night.
The voice of the Night is everywhere, and nowhere, as Ronald is in hot pursuit of the phantom called Night.
The Night even teasingly asks:
“Are you getting tired, Ronald?” said the Night
“No!” said Ronald, but he was tired.
At last “a rosy light shines at the bottom of the sky, and the Night was suddenly gone.”
“I won. I won.” said Ronald. “I chased the Night away.”
Time to turn off the flashlight, and crawl back under those warm covers…just in time for Mom to call up the stairs:
“Ronald, breakfast is ready.”
And what follows is the soft voice from the bottom of the covers that whispers:
“Ha, ha, ha,” whispered the Night. “I won. I won.”
And guess who sleeps all day? It isn’t the Night!
Remember the commercial whose tag line was “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.”
Well, I guess the Night does get the last laugh, but some battles for kids are sort of Pyrrhic victories, in that they need to be fought for the sake of the battle and the valor of the moment needed to confront a fear, the perceived enemy or a vague sense of unease.
And there sure is plenty of that around right now for young readers.
On the final page of the book, Tomie addresses his many sharp-eyed young readers who wrote him to say that he forgot to color half the book.
And though true, it was by design, as the cost of printing some 50 years ago was so cost prohibitive, his publisher told him half the book would be in black and white and only two colors could be selected for the other half.
Tomie wisely chose blue and magenta, which when combined, makes a perfect purple for they perfectly capture the inkiness of night.
Good Night, Night!
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