Pull up a Chair, It’s a Saturday Book Share: Ray Bradbury’s Switch on the Night

Saturday Book ShareThis meme prompts me to go into a little more depth about a book on a weekly basis–thanks, Styling Librarian.

Today I highlight the second book I have read in 2014 (although technically, I am still reading the first one; it’s called savoring 🙂 )

Ray Bradbury2I had absolutely no idea today’s book existed until I stumbled across it a few weeks ago at my local indie book store, Babbitt’s Books. I showed Switch on the Night to my husband, who immediately wanted it solely because it was written by Ray Bradbury. I also noticed that it was illustrated by the Caldecott-award-winning team of Leo and Diane Dillon. It got put on a shelf and Christmas came and went, and I just noticed it again this morning.

Switch on the Night is about a little boy who is afraid of the dark. He always has some sort of light going via flashlight, candle, lamp, etc. in order keep the Night out. And so he is very lonely. One night when the boy’s father is away and his mother goes to bed early, he turns on every light in the house and then hears a knock at the door. A girl named Dark invites him outside to meet the Night so he will have the courage to play outside with the other children. She encourages him to view things in a new way–instead of turning out lights, he will be “switching on the Night.”

“And when you switch on the Night,” said Dark,
“why you switch on the crickets!”
“And you switch on the frogs!”
“And you switch on the stars!”

bradbury 3This edition, first published in 1993, is illustrated by the Dillons, and although you can definitely recognize that it is their beautiful work, there is an Escher-like quality to many of the scenes (see left). The contrast between the blond, sad, fearful boy and the Afro-sporting, vibrant, adventurous Dark is powerful. For a look at more of the illustrations, check out this post from The Art of Leo and Diane Dillon.

switch2The book was originally published in 1955, Bradbury’s first work after Fahrenheit 451. It has been said that it was written for one of his children to help combat his fear of the dark (also a childhood fear of the author himself). In Ray Bradbury: The Life of Fiction, Eller, Touponce, and Nolan tell us that Bradbury “worked especially hard to convey to his illustrator and to his Pantheon editors the kind of presentation he expected.” The original illustrations by Swiss artist Madeleine Gekiere are wildly different from the Dillons’. My daughter loves the line drawings, which give the book a starker, more abstract presentation. I now want to get a copy of the original, as I don’t think I can truly compare the two by just seeing the drawings online on this 2008 post at Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves. Plus, of course, we would then have a copy of the original.

I love that there are so many new books to discover out there, even from authors I think I know well. More proof that 2014 will be an adventure in reading!


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