Book Review: Storm in the Night

Rating: ★★★★☆

Grandfather and young Thomas are alone in their darkened house, and the power outage prevents them from engaging in any of their ordinary diversions.  Without the use of their vision, their other senses are sharpened, and the sounds and smells of their home and community surround them.  As Thomas gazes out the window at a scene illuminated by moon and lightning, Grandfather remarks, “No help for it – I shall have to tell you a tale of when I was a boy.”  He then recounts a time when he, at Thomas’s age, hid under a bed during a storm, only belatedly remembering that his puppy, also terrified of storms, was still outside.  Thomas, who has claimed to not be afraid of the storm and dark, finally admits that if he had been alone he would have been. Eventually the lights do come on, and the story closes with an image of a young hand turning off the light in preparation for sleep.

This book, like Wiesner’s Hurricane, portrays a child facing a potentially frightening storm, and his fear is defused by the presence of a lovingly protective adult.  In this book, however, the primary theme is that of dealing with fear.  This conversation takes place in the context of a close, warm relationship, as Grandfather very gently uncovers Thomas’s feelings by identifying with him and providing an example of how he faced and overcame his own fear.  By using a story about himself, he defuses the boy’s embarrassment at feeling afraid, and his calm demeanor creates a safe place for the boy to admit his vulnerability.

This serious conversation doesn’t weigh the story down, though, primarily due to Stolz’ extraordinary use of language.  She describes the physical and tactile experience of the storm so vividly that the listener feels they are there themselves.  Her characters’ personalities and relationship are skillfully unveiled, and the conversation is well leavened with gentle, teasing humor.  Cummings’ striking blue-lit illustrations bring just the right mood to this thoughtful and joyful story.  It’s a great choice for elementary students but may be a little complex for preschoolers.

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Publication Information: Stolz, Mary. Storm in the Night. Cummings, Pat (Illustrator). Harper Trophy. 1988. ISBN: 0064432564.
Categories: 4 Stars, Age 04-08
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Posted on August 27, 2011

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