Normally, the thought of sitting outside on a sunny afternoon with a book in hand fills me with happiness. However, outside in the bright light, with all its dark corners revealed, the shadows lightened and secrets laid bare, the thought no longer seems so appealing when applied to this book. Because, as the title tells you, this is a book intended for the ‘night’.
The author, John Southworth, is a prolific musician and reading this book you can certainly tell that that is the case. The strange, almost lilting way the words roll off your tongue is something that is only fully realised when the collection of stories is read in quiet, hushed and secretive voices from a torch lit beneath the bed covers. The illustrator, David Ouimet, is also a musician and his beautiful graphite drawings look so real and engaging that it seems like you could disturb the pencil dust just by blowing on the page.
Daydreams for Night is an example of a newly emerging genre of picture books which cater for adults as well as teenagers. Rather than the illustrations accompanying the text, like in most picture books, the drawings here tell a story of their own. They expand on the quirky, thought-provoking stories and show the reader something more.
The book may seem little more gibberish upon your first read. The words make sense but when you put the story together as a whole it seems to fall from the world of reality into one where anything is possible – from Professors with sunflowers growing out of their heads to little boys with grey hair that peel potatoes with Latvian sailors. Beneath the surface, the book is filled with insightful messages and lessons to be learnt; at the end of the day, imagination shouldn’t be restrained in order to tell a brilliant story but instead encouraged.
A collection of short stories and dissociated pieces of poetry, each and every word is polished until it gleams and every pencil stoke is meticulously placed. Southworth makes strange, unexpected connections between the unusual and the everyday. I, for one, have never before heard the mixed metaphor “yummy sleep”. However, the more I think about it, sleep is essentially like a meal – long awaited and deeply satisfying.
I would recommend reading this book in the night-time, when the realities of evening fade away. At this time of day, everything is silent and there’s nothing to distract you from indulging fully in your imagination.
This collection of 13 vignettelike stories from first-time author Southworth, accompanied by Ouimet’s haunting b&w illustrations, follows in the tradition of Shaun Tan’s Tales of Outer Suburbia and Chris Van Allsburg’s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. The stories take place in settings and circumstances that are slightly, sometimes disconcertingly, tweaked. In one, a librarian doesn’t notice when a sunflower blossoms out of his head; in another, 10-year-old Ester, who sells more cookies than any other Brownie, retires to her room for three years after trying to sell cookies to a ghostly individual at a funeral home (in the full-spread image that follows, Ester totes a wagon-full of cookies across a great lawn, peering back at the estate as birds swarm overhead). Each story stands on its own, yet they are connected through a shared enigmatic quality, offering up intriguing possibilities over explanations. Ages 8–12. (Feb.)
Picture Books Blogger:
Oh deep joy! I’ve been harping on now for a very long time about picture books not necessarily being just for young children, even the ones that may be aimed at a younger audience. A really good picture book has the power to carry you to far-off, distant places and allow you to step inside someone else’s shoes, even if just for a moment and this wonderful collection of short stories does exactly that.
A beautifully produced book with distinct black and white, gothic style illustrations by David Ouimet, will undoubtedly get your imagination working and your mind exploring.
The range of bizarre, yet enthralling characters are brought to life by John Southworth’s clever story telling and David Ouimet’s intriguing illustrations in a powerful collaboration we really hope to see again.
Almost in a quirky graphic novel style, this book has a definite appeal to adults and the older child, perhaps even from 8-10 years +.
We are so excited to see more of these types of book breaking through, following the great Shaun Tan’s footsteps. Great for the reluctant reader and proven to encourage reading for pleasure, we hope this genre of work continues and catches momentum to produce more top quality fiction.
A collection of slightly eerie, slightly surreal, and very brief tales comprise Canadian singer-songwriter John Southworth’s first children’s book. Daydreams for Night is a mechanical mixture of 13 very pithy tales (less than a page in length) strung together by David Ouimet’s complex illustrations. Each tale is relayed in a slightly eerie, and yet very calm and direct manner about beings and situations both fantastical and real. The tales are open-ended and lack any real introduction, resolution, or development; but rather, they serve as glimpses into momentary situations in people’s lives. Southworth – being a musician – has written a collection of works that are somewhat lyrical in nature (although they are clearly prose) – due to their imagination, style, and open-ended interpretive qualities....
Ouimet’s illustrations are unique and very Edward Gorey-esque. The complex, black and white, highly detailed illustrations tie the writing together and are suitable for the target audience – just eerie enough to remain in the imagination.
The Book Wars blog:
This book is beautiful...
The art by David Ouimet fits the tone of the stories perfectly. Black and white with thick lines that augur the atmosphere echoed in the stories, this book is very much a collaboration between the author and the artist.
The stories prove most interesting though to be quite honest, I wasn’t as enamored by them as I was by the physicality of this book. The stories, or rather, vignettes are sometimes bizarre and leave a lot to the imagination. My favourite among them is “Girl Guide Cookies” because it revealed a bit, hinted a lot, and left the reader imagining. I reckon this book could be used in classrooms as a tool for teaching creative writing. Read each vignette to the class and ask the students to complete or continue the stories in whichever direction they desire. Daydreams for Night will, perhaps, be more popular with older readers who are able to work through more abstract storytelling than younger ones who still need the ends neatly tied.