A ROUNDUP OF THE BEST NEW HANUKKAH BOOKS FOR KIDS 2023 REVIEWS: LATKE'S FIRST…
A Heartwarming & Breathtaking Picture Book Featuring
Both a Badger & The Night as Characters
☆Starred Review – Publishers Weekly
Elsa and the Night (Little Gestalten, $19.95, Ages 5-8), a sophisticated picture book by Jöns Mellgren translated from Swedish by Anita Shenoi, is the story of Elsa whose profound sadness after losing a close friend has prevented her from getting any sleep for 30 years.
When the Night shows up at Elsa’s house, “it’s getting light,” outside. But this particular Night is cup-sized, dark and “trembling like a sewing machine …”
Initially Elsa stores the Night into an old cake tin, and puts him the basement boiler room of her apartment building. But while the Night is safely tucked away, the towns-creatures grow tired. Elsa realizes she must revive the Night to help everyone and, in spite of her 30 year insomnia, she couldn’t just let the Night fade away.
When Elsa and the Night spend time together, the Night learns of Elsa’s loss so many years before. Elsa’s best friend, Olaf, an elephant, passed away after getting ill while the two were stranded on an island together. Elsa remained to work in the lighthouse there until electricity replaced the gas lamps.
A touching and unique new friendship blossoms as does compassion. The two friends team up as Elsa takes the Night to see where Olaf is buried. Under the loving care of the Night, Elsa soon falls asleep and is carried by the Night as it becomes larger and begins spreading across the sky.
“Then the Night hums a song about the moonlight and warm slippers.
It empties the streets and puts an end to all the quarrels. It goes
from house to house, tucking everyone into bed.
I found myself reading this picture book over and over again to see how Mellgren so magically melds his poetic prose with his artwork. The colors are bold, the lines are sharp and there’s a clean graphic design look to each page. Mellgren’s also added some wonderful touches such as an umbrella the Night carries on Elsa’s recommendation which of course gets smaller and smaller as the Night grows in intensity. Parents will want to point out how the Night gets bigger and bigger, but only if the kids haven’t already fallen asleep! Prepare to be moved by this original tale of friendship lost and found.
– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel