It is summer and Frog is very excited. After sleeping through winter Frog is ready to play with his friends, Badger, Hedgehog, Mouse and Rabbit. After a day of games and leapfrog, suddenly it is getting dark. Frog borrows a lantern and sets off for the pond, ready for his first swim of the season. He puts the lantern down and is about to jump in, when he sees a black pond monster. Grabbing the lantern, he hops back to his friends to spread the word about the pond monster. Each of his friends, except Mouse, who can’t keep up, accompanies him to the pond and they all see the monster. And each time they arrive the monster is bigger and scarier. Badger is the last animal to look, and when he arrives the wind blows out his lantern. Badger cannot see any monster, nor can Frog, Hedgehog or Rabbit, until Mouse catches up with his small lantern. His shadow appears in the reeds. They are all somewhat abashed at being afraid of their own shadows, then they laugh together and Frog leaps into his lovely pond.
The language is lyrical, with lots of repetition. Children will enjoy repeating things like, “Woo-woo! the wind blew in the trees”, and “squeak, squeak! went the lantern.” This is a good read-a-loud for groups as well as a one-on-one book to share.
Jane Chapman’s art is lovely. The backgrounds slowly darken as twilight arrives, with the lantern each animal has created a solid glowing luminous spot in each picture. While the animals are anatomically realistic, their faces are much more anthropomorphic. Their expressions of fear when they see the monster are both humorous and a little scary. Chapman has a way of placing the animals in each picture that conveys their need to help each other deal with the monsters.
This would be a great story to share with older preschoolers and younger elementary school children. So on a dark rainy night, grab a flashlight and create your own scary monsters on a wall after sharing the book. A visually lovely book, with a lyrical text, and a joke everyone can share and laugh at.
Check the WRL catalog for The Dark, Dark Night.