Book: Christopher Sat Straight Up in Bed
Author: Kathy Long
Illustrator: Patricia Cantor
Age Range: 4 - 8
Christopher Sat Straight Up in Bed is about a boy who is (apparently) spending the night at his grandparents' house, and is scared by a mysterious noise. He imagines all sorts of possible explanations, but eventually summons his courage and investigates. In the end, he finds that there is a logical and non-scary source to the sound.
Christopher Sat Straight Up in Bed is fun to read-aloud. The sound that Christopher hears is "Honk-shoo", shown in a variety of large, colorful fonts throughout the book. This formatting positively begs the reading parent to make much of the sound.
Kathy Long's text is relatively dense for a picture book, and includes advanced vocabulary, as well as the occasional metaphor. Like this:
Christopher sat straight up in bed again. "It sounds like an elephant trumpeting."
He tiptoed to the window and looked out, but he only saw the moon playing hide-and-seek with the clouds.
Christopher waited and listened. He didn't hear anything else except the squeak of his grandparents' bed. He crawled back into bed and closed his eyes."
The inherent suspense in the text also works well for read-aloud. The page following the above just says: "Then he heard it again." How could a parent not read that in a melodramatic tone? Such brief, dramatic paragraphs become more frequent as Christopher gets closer to solving the mystery.
Patricia Cantor's illustrations, rendered in pastel on sanded paper, alternate between humorous depictions of Christopher's fears (an elephant curled up on a tree branch, a tiny monster screaming under the bed), and dim nighttime scenes. Christopher is shown with a rather odd-shaped head. Things that he sees, like his bed, are often shown a bit off-kilter, the way one's vision can be in the middle of the night.
Cantor also hand-lettered the "Honk-shoos" and some other display text, which makes sense - these are well-integrated with the pictures.
One doesn't run across picture book mysteries every day, and that alone makes Christopher Sat Straight Up in Bed worth a look. The moody colors and slightly surrealistic illustrations, not to mention the suspense over the noise, may not work for all children. But my relatively timid 3 year old (at night anyway) found Christopher Sat Straight Up in Bed more funny than scary. Because of the ambiguity over why Christopher is at his grandparents' house (does he live there now?), this book may also work well for nontraditional families.
Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (@eerdmansbooks)
Publication Date: February 7, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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