CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 7 . . . . November 29, 2002
Reviewed from prepublication copy.
The Night Walker is the latest collaboration between gifted author Richard Thompson and award-winning illustrator Martin Springett. As in The Follower, (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2000, reviewed in CM, Vol. VIII, No. 1) Thompson uses a spare, rhythmic prose style to create a mood of mystery and suspense. A young boy goes exploring late one afternoon, wading across streams, climbing hills, wandering through the forest. The boy carries a knobbly stick for poking in holes, for helping him balance on steep places, and "just in case." He also carries a pouch tied to his belt in which to collect treasures. In fact, he is so busy looking for treasures, that he does not notice the sun going down. As he hurries home in the dark, the boy begins to hear strange sounds:
It might be a rabbit--nothing to be afraid of--or it might be a wild dog or a fox. Luckily, he has his knobbly stick (just in case) to chase away a wild dog or fox. But, as he walks faster, the "whateveritwas" walks faster. Maybe it is a panther or a bear following him. "Or it might be one of those creatures in the stories that told you to never-go-out-in-the-night-alone--a Night Walker!" Such a horrible creature has long sharp claws (that clink and click) and a sack (that rustles) to catch unwary boys. Terror takes hold of the boy as he races for home. Suddenly he trips and tumbles headlong: "All he could hear was the thunder of his blood and the tornado of his breathing." The author builds the suspense masterfully, bringing his story to a close in a way which leaves plenty of room for discussion and speculation.
Springett's sweeping and stylized paintings match the mood of the tale wonderfully, often employing exaggeration of size to depict the young boy's imaginative landscape. Fox, bear, panther and the dreaded Night Walker are all drawn larger than life. Thompson's text is that of a good storyteller--simple, rhythmic and dramatic.
Elementary teachers and librarians should find The Night Walker a successful read aloud. It will be a welcome addition to the elementary library's collection of mythical beast tales and of First Nations' folklore.
A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.