CM . . . .
Volume V Number 15 . . . . March 26, 1999
From this beginning, Rose encounters the first of a host of night time visitors who interfere with her travels out of bed and to the bathroom. The first is a witch whom Rose vanquishes with an incantation: "Abracadabra, sheets almighty! Little children in their nighties! You stupid witch! I'm going to rant you into the size of an ant." Having reduced her foe into an ant-rat-witch, Rose achieves the landing and then the stairs, where she meets a vampire, soon reduced to a dragonfly by mighty Rose Redberry. When she enters the kitchen an ogre is "close, larger than life, He's screaming so loud, he's raising his knife," but Rose finds the light switch and finds herself alone in the bathroom where, mission accomplished, she then heads back to bed.
Mireille Levert is a well-known and accomplished author and illustrator with a shelf of titles to her credit, from the Jeremiah picture books to the Molly stories in board book format. In Rose By Night, she has created a strong, self-reliant hero in Rose Redberry who uses her imagination and the light switch to good effect in countering fears of the dark on that recurrent journey from bed to bathroom. The publicity for this book suggests ages 3 to 5 as the most appropriate; however, the strong writing and scary characters suggest an older reader/listener, or at least some pre-reading by adults who know whether their charges will feel empowered or upset by the story and images. The parents of preschoolers who sampled this felt the story would incite night fears, rather than conquer them. Anyone who has assembled a collection of Hallowe'en tales knows that there is also a huge appeal in being spooked. This book will have a definite audience, especially as the older picture book reader will enjoy the fright and have fun with the bathroom journey, probably being too big to need a midnight trip to the toilet.
Levert uses her familiar palette of warm tones ranging from red to ochre to orange, with a background of blues and black. Rose is the centre of the action, even when her fiery hair stands on end with fright. The "bad guys" are appropriately horrible, with witch claws, vampire teeth, and ogre drool all depicted. The ogre even sports a belt festooned with saw, handcuffs and electric drill, again a warning of strong images for parents and care-givers of the preschool set.
Recommended as a good read for the brave, especially for Hallowe'en collections, but images and strong writing suggest that the younger picture book audience would be overwhelmed.
Jennifer Johnson is a public librarian in Ottawa, ON.
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