In the Dark: Nightsong by Ari Beck
THE SUN HAD SET, AND THE SHADOWS CLINGING TO THE WALLS OF THE CAVE BEGAN TO WAKE AND WHISPER.
“CHIRO? LITTLE WING?” THE BAT-MOTHER SAID TO HER CHILD. “TONIGHT YOU MUST FLY OUT INTO THE WORLD.”
Going out into the wide world for the first time is hard, whether it is a child on the first day of school, a teenager heading off to college or a distant job, or in Ari Beck's and Loren Long's newly published Nightsong (Simon & Schuster, 2012), a young bat on his first solo flight into the night. Like all first-timers, Chiro is afraid, but his mother wisely reassures him that he has what it takes to make his way in the world.
“BUT THE NIGHT IS DARK, MOMMA, DARKER THAN THE MOTH’S WING...DARKER
EVEN THAN THE WATER BEFORE DAWN,” LITTLE BAT EXCLAIMED.
“I KNOW,” WHISPERED HIS MOTHER. “THERE ARE OTHER WAYS TO MAKE YOUR
WAY IN THE WORLD. USE YOUR GOOD SENSE.”
THE MOTHER FOLDED HIM IN HER WINGS. “‘SENSE’ IS THE SONG YOU SING OUT
INTO THE WORLD AND THE SONG THE WORLD SINGS BACK TO YOU. SING AND
THE WORLD WILL ANSWER. THAT IS HOW YOU WILL SEE.”
Little Chiro takes off into the twilight, but as the light fades from his eyes, his fear grows. Still, he remembers his mother’s warm wings and her wise words. And he begins to sing his own song, and suddenly he sees what is before him as clearly as he might see by daylight, his large, keen ears pulling in the “images” of geese and trees and rock outcroppings, and best of all, tasty insect bites to satisfy his hunger. Suddenly, Chiro understands his own power and begins to enjoy his solo night flight.
And when his hunger is satisfied, Chiro cannot resist flying on and on away from home. Out over the wide beach he soars.
HE FLEW FAST TOWARD THE HIGH DUNES, EACH GRAIN OF SAND CALLING OUT
IN CHORUS AS HE PASSED. CHIRO FLAPPED OVER THE DUNES AND OUT OVER
THE STRAND, SINGING LOUDER THAN HE EVER SANG BEFORE.
EACH SPLASH OF SEA FOAM BECAME CLEAR TO HIM.
And when the faint glow of sunrise appears, Chiro reluctantly turns back, singing his way through the dark until he finds himself homing in upon his own cave, where he knows his mother is waiting.
Award-winning artist Loren Long’s warm yet powerful use of acrylic and graphite media juxtaposes a soft brown and big-eyed novice bat in his first echolocation flight against a background of deep brown and black, a textured darkness that sets up the premise of the story well. Little Wing’s night song is portrayed as a cone of light before him in which woodland trees, landing geese, and even a variety of insects appear in his path, a visual image which makes the actual aural imagery which guides Chiro understandable to young readers. A finely honed text “sings” out the story as the finely crafted illustrations sing to the readers' eyes. Together these two creators have given us a lovely story which shows the potential high art of the picture book.