"The best children's stories are wisdom dipped in art and words." -Peter Reynolds

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Night in the Country

Have you ever wondered about the sounds outside your bedroom window at night? This mysterious book is about what happens at night in the country while people sleep. Night in the Country was published in 1991 and written by the incredible Cynthia Rylant. The gorgeous artwork was illustrated by Mary Szilagyi. Rylant’s descriptive, lyrical language combined with Szilagyi’s vibrant and fresh illustrations make this a definite go-to-bedtime story.

This book follows the sounds and sights of night in the country. We lead such fast and busy lives! Thank goodness for Rylant's perfect reminder that we need to take the time to stop and listen to the world around us. Throughout the story we are introduced to various animals and their night escapades—an owl, frogs, and rabbits, to name a few. Rylant’s use of onomatopoeia is poetic and engaging for children:

“And, if you lie very still, you may hear an apple fall from the tree in the back yard. Listen: Pump!”
I can envision young children interacting with her words and smiling as they listen for night sounds around themselves. All the text in the book is yellow which really makes them pop against the dark backgrounds. It was a unique touch! It places deliberate emphasis on the text and keeps the reader involved in the story. On the other hand, the illustrations are darker shades of color to emphasize the sneakiness and solitude of the night. But on every page there are bright pops of color that show a brilliant contrast.
I am a huge fan of Rylant’s beautiful way of storytelling. In this text, she does a great job coming full circle with the story. On the first page she begins by describing how people are asleep in their beds dreaming of the day, while a whole other world is coming to life in the night. Whereas on the last page she comes back full circle with, “Then they will spend a day in the country listening to you.” I admire how this book inherently teaches how much we are connected with Mother Nature. Their day is our night and vice versa, but we share the space. What a brave new idea for children to learn.

This book has the ability to make one feel warm and cozy inside. I recommend it as a bedtime story as it definitely has a sleepy, comforting tone. One of my favorite parts of the story in both terms of text and illustrations is in the first half, on the page with a cat on an open window sill.  There are no warm colors just the deep, cool shades of blue on the window sill and curtain. The cat is as dark as the night outside of the window. These shades of blue are so soothing and calming. The perspective of the reader facing the open window is so inviting. I felt like I could actually stick my head outside the window and listen to the sounds myself. Take a look for yourself:

My favorite text of the book is also on this page when Rylant said, “And if you are one of those people in one of those little houses, and if you cannot sleep, you will hear the sounds of night in the country all around you." This part hit close to home. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, in a small blue house, in a quiet neighborhood. Although the Chicago suburbs are far different from the country; I remember lying awake at night and listening to the sounds of the suburb. I could hear the wind blowing through the trees, cars passing by every few minutes, and cicadas chirping. There is comfort in those sounds for me now no matter where I live. What sounds of the night do you remember listening to while you were trying to sleep?



  1. I really enjoyed your review and I have to say I have never heard of this book before. I can relate to the theme of the story as I grew up close to the country and spending many nights at my grandparents that had a farm and did live in the country. I remember laying there and listening to all the sounds around us with my Grandmother and asking what is that what is that.... She always had an answer. I can't wait to check this out and read it!

  2. Yay! I am so glad! It really is a beautiful story.