Night School is on the shelf of favourites in our library of children’s books. Both its author Isobelle Carmody and illustrator Anne Spudvilas are genius creators and Night School is a celebration of the captivating power of words and images that fit each other like a glove.
I admire many Isobelle Carmody’s texts but this one blows me away. It must be experienced in its entirety and no review will do it full justice, so my only attempt here is to offer a glimpse into it, hoping that it might motivate to seek and engage with the whole. Paraphrasing Isobelle is no easy feat so expect direct quotes. Likewise, the power of Anne Spudvilas illustrations for Night School is hard to describe in words or capture in photos. The illustrations create a sense of ultimate unease in an eerie, misty, spooky space. I believe a few of the original illustrations for this book will be shown in the upcoming exhibition “25 Years in Illustration – The Art of Anne Spudvilas”, opening at Newcastle Regional Library on 8 March 2018. Can’t wait to see it.
“Night is coming and this old school beside the wilderness empties.
The rules of day wither and blow away.
Now it is a school for shadows.”
So begins the story about a group of school kids’ about to have a sleepover in a deserted and eerie old school edifice. The teacher orders for them to sleep but what kids would do that on a night link this! They play a game instead, a nerve-wrecking one which involves a quest around this dark eerie old school space, evoking something from an Edgar Allan Poe world. They must follow the path of light, they must go into each room…
“The bravest girl goes first.
The hall is cold and the school has changed shape. There are mysterious doors and extra floors, corners and cracks that do not bear looking into.
‘I’m not afraid’, the girl whispers. Her words quiver…
The shadows giggle and rustle.
‘Silly girl, this is no game. This is a war; it has been played forever’ ”
Others join in and “climb the ladder of light, candle by candle”. “Fear-weaving spiders”, shadows that do not like courage, darkness summoning the one claimed by it years before, prince of darkness with “blackness spilling out of him”, “this fight is more than it seems”…
“Behind the final door is a room that belongs to the dark, even in the day. Its many windows gape on the forest, which has no end. The moonlight is its savage eye”. I just marvel in Isobelle’s evocative language.
Will the children succeed in overcoming the darkness or will it quench their lights? Grab your copy of the Night School and find out.
For more books on dealing with feelings and difficult emptions click here.