He Comes by Night: Nighttime Ninja by Barbara DaCosta
THE CLOCK STRUCK MIDNIGHT.In her first picture book, Nighttime Ninja (Little, Brown, 2012) Barbara Da Costa's prose narrative is as spare and lean as a quintessential ninja himself. Da Costa's text is limited to power verbs--"climbed," "leapt," "crept," "knelt." "flashed"--to tell the story of a nighttime ninja invasion of a sleeping house. The black-clad figure, only his eyes visible, tosses his grappling hook and ascends hand over hand to the window, and moves through the sleeping house down the hall toward his mission's end.
HAND OVER HAND A NINJA CLIMBED AND CLIMBED.
DaCosta is fortunate in telling her nighttime tale to have the prodigious skills of the Caldecott artist Ed Young, whose illustrations, collaged from cut paper, string, fabric, and colored pencil, suggest an oriental setting with deep green bamboo and textured backgrounds setting off the shadowy ninja figure, done in basic black and charcoal shades.
But, as suspense builds and the shadowy ninja figure kneels to spread out his tools, another reality breaks into the narrative:
SUDDENLY A LIGHT FLASHED ON.Young's perspective alters abruptly, and the reader is looking up from a little ninja's perspective to see an enormous female figure, arms akimbo in mock wrath. It's Mama, and the little ninja's mission to raid the refrigerator for ice cream has obviously been aborted. In fact, the mission is changed to a fast back-to-bed, stealth-free trip, with Mama's firm farewell, a no-frills, I-really-mean-it-this-time wish for non-caloric sweet dreams
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"
A bedtime story powered by a fantasy foray ends, as all good bedtime tales must, with this little ninja tucked in for sleepy dreams. A tight text extended and illuminated by extraordinary illustrations! As Publishers Weekly puts it, "The depth of feeling Da Costa and Young give to the boy’s fantasy makes this a standout."