The House in the Night is based on a pattern. There is a key to a house that contains light which contains a bed that contains a book. The pattern of “thing within a thing” continues inside of the book on the bed. We see the inside of the house, and the contents of the book that sits on the bed in the house.
I would say that The House in the Night is among my favorite picture books. This book feels like a modern day Good Night Moon. The day is winding down, and the book takes a survey of the world captured within it. I think that books like this can offer a great deal of comfort to children as they wind down before bedtime. There is a place for everything and everything is in its place as the day ends. As Caldecott Award Winner, The House in the Night displays amazing quality in the way of illustrations. Illustrated primarily in black and white, the book places an emphasis on certain objects by showing them in yellow. Stylistically, the pictures in The House in the Night are very innovative and unique, and to me added a lot to the experience of the book.
A young girl is given a golden key to a house. “In the house / burns a light. / In that light / rests a bed. On that bed / waits a book.” And so continues this simple text, which describes sometimes fantastical pleasures as a bird from the book spirits the child through the starry sky to a wise-faced moon. The cumulative tale is a familiar picture-book conceit; the difference in success comes from the artwork. Here, the art is spectacular. Executed in scratchboard decorated in droplets of gold, Krommes’ illustrations expand on Swanson’s reassuring story (inspired by a nursery rhyme that begins, “This is the key of the kingdom”) to create a world as cozy inside the house as it is majestic outside. The two-page spread depicting rolling meadows beyond the home, dotted with trees, houses, barns, and road meeting the inky sky, is mesmerizing. The use of gold is especially effective, coloring the stars and a knowing moon, all surrounded with black-and-white halos. A beautiful piece of bookmaking that will delight both parents and children.
The House in the Night includes an author’s note that explains that the book is based on the nursery rhyme The Key to The Kingdom. I would read the nursery rhyme aloud and follow it with The House in the Night.
Swanson, S. M. (2008). The House in the Night. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN: 0618862447.
Cooper, I. (2008). [Review of the book The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson]. Booklist, 104(16), 5-5.