Review by Joe Taylor
NIGHTSONG by Ari Berk & Loren Long
It’s Chiro’s first day out on his own, and to be honest, the little bat is a little afraid of the dark. When he tells his mother that it’s dark outside and that he can’t always see, his mother answers him back that “There are other ways to see, other ways to help you make your way in the world”.
Chiro (his mother calls him “Little Wing”) bravely sets out from the familiarity of his cave for his first night flight alone. When he tries to see with his eyes, strange images loom before him and he’s frightened until he remembers his mother’s words: “Sense is the song you sing out into the world, and the song the world sings back to you”.
This is the story of a little bat who learns his first lesson about facing his fear, and how beautiful the world becomes once he sees it with his song, and hears the world’s song sung back to him; for everything on earth, every tree and every grain of sand has a song of its own.
If your first impression of Nightsong is one that labels this handsome book as merely another children’s book, go back and settle into the deceptively simple language. Here is the language of a magician poet, it’s simple sentences performing as incantations to call up our higher spirits. Like all great writing since the times of Lao Tzu, the messages gained from Ari Berk’s words will mean different things to the one experiencing this special book. Whether children in their PJ’s or the adult reading it by the light of a small bedside lamp, both have something to gain.
Children will be entertained by the soft soulful illustrations of Loren Long, whose wide eyed, frightened little bat, flies out of his dark fearful world, into a world of blue and turquoise, orange and green and the faint yellow of a rising sun. The drawings of Chiro make an introduction to the world of bats a less scary one; his soft cuteness is punctuated by a small pair of little human feet. And the story let’s drama unfold at a child’s level, from darkness to light on each page as Chiro learns to trust his own song and its place in the world. It is in all senses a book of high wisdom, written so children will get it.
And lucky is the adult to whom the nightly ritual of bedtime stories befalls if the pick that night is Ari Berk’s Nightsong. This deceptively simple story was written by a real master, who writes subtle reminders to us adults as well, to see with our “good sense”, (the word’good’ is emboldened in the text) to look for the good in other’s first, to trust your higher self in all your undertakings. Time and again little Chiro confronts his fears practicing the lesson his mother has taught him, until he moves confidently forward going further than he thought he ever would, at last seeing beauty first with all of his fears forgotten.
It’s a perfect tale to prepare a child for his or her first day of preschool or kindergarten. But after the little one is safely installed in the classroom, don’t be surprised if you find yourself unconsciously picking the book up on your own. You’ll want to settle into the incantation that it is and marvel at its magic. Then store it in a secure place or buy a second copy. This is one to hand down decades later when grandchildren come along.
Yaroos gives Nightsong 5 Stars out of 5.