When your house is surrounded by woods in a neighborhood surrounded by woods, as the nights start to get cooler with the approach of winter, you can usually expect uninvited guests. Regardless of applying foaming filler in every nook and cranny, they find a way into your humble abode. As they make their presence known and your canine companion chooses to ignore them, you do too. It's a sort of a live and let live philosophy.
There are times though when lying in bed reading, their skittering and scampering in the walls is downright distracting. The new release, Good Night Owl (Disney Hyperion, April 19, 2016) by Geisel Award-winning author/illustrator Greg Pizzoli (The Watermelon Seed) has one of our nocturnal, feathered friends struggling to enjoy total peace and quiet. His night is anything but good.
Owl was settling into bed
when he heard a noise.
It wasn't very loud but it was a tad bit weird. He thought someone might be at the door but when he checked there was not a soul in sight. Owl decided to tuck himself back into bed and wish himself good night.
Mere seconds later, he heard the same sound again. Perhaps it was inside the house. He not only looked in a cupboard in the living room but took every object off the shelves until they were bare. There was no noise there.
Back in bed he tried to go to asleep.
Oh, no! It was the noise. Where could it possibly be? Grabbing his tool box he set to work. It was not under him. Can you believe it? Owl heard that noise a fourth time as he was trying his hardest to have a good night and to sleep tight.
Getting more and more frustrated, determined to locate the source of the sound, he became even more industrious. He found himself able to gaze at the night sky...from his bed. At this point Owl was beyond frazzled. He waited for the sound. And he waited some more. Any thoughts of sleep were gone. And then it happened. You might get what you expect or you might get more.
When you long for sleep, the slightest sound, especially a new noise, can jolt you into restlessness faster than caffeine. This is a universal truth. Greg Pizzoli uses this to excellent advantage. The blend of narration and dialogue expands our involvement. He creates a story cadence with Owl settling in, hearing the noise and trying to locate it.
Each time he attempts to eradicate the presence of the noise, his actions escalate. They become more and more extreme which increases the comedy of the entire situation until the final episode when readers (and the noise maker) are not quite sure what Owl will do. This moment is marvelous. Here is a sample passage.
So Owl went back to bed.
"Good night, Owl," he said.
And then he heard the noise.
When you look at the front of the dust jacket, you are not quite sure what is bothering Owl but his wide-eyed stare lets you know everything is not right in his world. The grinning mouse leaning over his headboard gives you the smallest clue. You might also wonder why Owl seems to be in his bed under the stars. To the left, on the back, of the dust jacket a small circle of white in placed on the darker starry canvas. Mouse is standing there, finger to lips, telling us to be quiet. The colors seen on the dust jacket are used throughout the book.
The book case is a close-up of the walls of Owl's home, a soft shade of gray. On the right is a cross stitch Home Sweet Home picture Owl has hanging on his wall. This, when you consider what is going to happen, is hilarious. On the back of the book case is the underside or back of the sewn picture. The opening and closing endpapers are the same pattern as Owl's bedspread; crisscross lines making diamonds, some filled with pastel hues.
On the title page Owl is peering at us out one of the windows in his home. Mouse is looking out the other. Many of the illustrations are single page, framed in a wide white border. For emphasis Pizzoli uses larger images. The text appears alone on a page, beneath and above pictures and sometimes with small images on a colorful background. To create further tension Pizzoli does have a series of four visuals framed in a black line zooming in closer to Owl's face with each one. Careful readers will see small details giving a nod to his other titles as well as the passage of time.
I have many favorite images in this book. Each one accentuates the narrative. One of them is Owl going back to bed for the fourth time. His eyes are closed as he sleeps on his side. Wearing a grin Mouse is leaning over the headboard. You know with every fiber of your being, Owl is going to hear the noise again.
Will this title be a bedtime favorite? Yes! Will this title be a storytime favorite? Yes! Will Good Night Owl written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli be an anytime favorite? YES! We can easily identify with both of the characters. We will love to laugh at every new incident.
To learn more about Greg Pizzoli and his other work please follow the link attached to his name to access his website. Greg Pizzoli maintains a blog here. Nick Patton chats with Greg Pizzoli at All The Wonders, Picturebooking Episode 53. It is totally fascinating. Enjoy the book trailer.