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The House in the Night The 2009 Randolph Caldecott Medal

The House in the Night

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  • Inspired by a cumulative nursery rhyme, Susan Marie Swanson wrote The House in the Night. This story of a little boy’s nighttime fantasy flight over his community is full of imaginative touches. Especially for 3 to 8 year olds, the story is mostly told through the scratchboard illustrations by Beth Krommes, who received the for picture book illustration for The House in the Night.

    Starred review: Kirkus, April 1, 2008
    Inspired by a traditional poem from The Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book, Swanson's cumulative tale begins, "Here is the key to the house." Readers are welcomed inside the house, where they find a light, a bed within the light, a book on that bed and a bird inside that book. The book opens to reveal a bird that sings a song about the dark, and within that song are the moon and the sun shining on the moon's face. And then, from deep in the night, the poem begins to climb back out of itself: "Sun in the moon, /moon in dark/dark in the song,/song in the bird," and so forth, finally arriving back to "the house in the night" which is indeed, a "home full of light." Krommes's breathtaking scratchboard illustrations, in black and white with accents of yellow and gold, embody and enhance the text's message that light and dark, like comfort and mystery, are not mutually exclusive, but integral parts of each other. (Picture book, 3-7)

    Starred review: Booklist, April 15, 2008
    A young girl is given a golden key to a house. "In the house/burns a light,/In that light/rests a bed. On that bed/waits a book." And so continues this simple text, which describes sometimes fantastical pleasures as a bird from the book spirits the child through the starry sky to a wise-faced moon. The cumulative tale is a familiar picture-book conceit; the difference in success comes from the artwork. Here the art is spectacular. Executed in scratchboard decorated in droplets of gold, Krommes' illustrations expand on Swanson's reassuring story (inspired by a nursery rhyme that begins, "This is the key of the kingdom") to create a world as cozy inside a house as it is majestic outside. The two-page spread depicting rolling meadows beyond home, dotted with trees, houses, barns, and road meeting the inky sky, is mesmerizing. The use of gold is especially effective, coloring the stars and a knowing moon, all surrounded with black-and-white halos. A beautiful piece of bookmaking that will delight both parents and children.
    Ilene Cooper

  • The circular adventure begins and ends in the real world where the key still hangs in the house. While not a rhyming text, the text of The House in the Night is poetic, with one line per page consisting of three to seven words. The limited text tells the story, but it is the illustrations that depict additional imagery and actually say more than the text.

    Interestingly, all of the illustrations in The House in the Night are double-page spreads. Two of the illustrations that are especially eye-catching for readers are the aerial view of the town from the child’s perspective on the bird and the moon emitting the light that the sun is shining on it. In the town spread, the depth and curves of the hills create an illustration that looks like readers are gazing at miles and miles of landscape. The moon spread brings nighttime to life with the sun shining in a different form. These unique scratchboard and watercolor images could stand alone to tell the story without the text.

    Author: Susan Marie Swanson; Beth Krommes
    Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008.
    Edition/Format:  Print book : Fiction : Primary school : EnglishView all editions and formats
    Database:WorldCat
    Summary:
    Illustrations and easy-to-read text explore the light that makes a house in the night a home filled with light.
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    Subjects
    • Dwellings -- Juvenile fiction.
    • Light -- Juvenile fiction.
    • Night -- Juvenile fiction.
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    Swanson was gradually influenced to move from poetry to children’s literature through reading to her own children, writing reviews of children books and studying elementary education. Her children’s picture book The First Thing My Mama Told Me was named a Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book in 2003 and her picture book To Be Like the Sun also received high praise and star reviews. The nursery rhyme “This is the key of the Kingdom” has long been one of her favorites and inspired Swanson to write The House in the Night. (Sources: The Artful Parent, )

House in the Night - In the house

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