CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 19 . . . . May 23, 2003
"Night night, sleep tight. Don't let the bedbugs bite." In But If They Do, a father puts his child to bed with the traditional good night refrain, little suspecting what the words will set in motion. In bed, the little girl hatches a back up plan after all, with bedbugs abiting, how is a child to sleep? She dispatches the pests with much energy and noise. Her father returns, putting her back to bed with another verse only to have her soundly rout this new beast in turn. Her father is (like all parents) ever patient, and so goes the pattern until, finally, he realizes the effect of his words and quits the rhyme that fuels the girl's hyperactive imagination.
This rambunctious storyline seems an unlikely bedtime story, but it uses a clever pattern of engage and release that spirals into sleep. Softly, easily, the father offers his gentle goodnight; the child parries by posing the possibility "but if they do" thus upping the tension, answering her own challenge with staccato energy. Each round repeats the pattern until the father steps in to gently, firmly, end the antics, and with soothing words and tone, lead the listener to the brink of sleep. The type echos this pattern, becoming bigger or bolder as occasion demands, returning at the end to a calm and regular state. The monsters, vampires and ghouls that make up the variations on the well worn refrain have the potential to set off a night fraught with fears but night fears haven't a chance against Bill Richardson's humour. He forestalls any real risk of endangering sleep with the little girl's creative and inevitable triumphs over laughable menaces. Marc Mongeau's pictures are comforting and comical in the same way, with cheerful colours muted suitably for bedtime and monsters that are funny rather than fearful. The story closes with a suitably hypnotic, calming return to normalcy that should let child and parent alike rest easy.
Cora Lee is a Vancouver, BC, writer and editor.
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