The Picture Book Buzz

Night Lunch - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Reminiscent of the Night Gardner, this cover is captivating. The owl with a tiny chef's cap and the tiny mouse with a broom are both enchanting and curious. I'm excited to share with you this timeless, magical picture book which wraps an evening of elegance, imagination, and compassion into the perfect bedtime snuggle.

Night Lunch


Author: Eric Fan


Illustrator: Dena Seiferling


Publisher: Tundra Books/Penguin Random House Canada (2022)


Ages: 4-8


Fiction


Themes:

Nocturnal animals, compassion, imagination, gratitude, friendship, and night time.


Synopsis:

A mysterious cook whips up midnight meals for fellow night owls in a lavish lunch cart while a hungry mouse looks on in this atmospheric picture book inspired by the forerunner of food trucks and diners. A delectable picture book inspired by forerunners of food truck, for fans of The Night Gardener.


Noses sniff the air as mouthwatering smells waft down city streets, luring growling bellies to the Night Owl. Inside this elegant, horse-drawn establishment, a feathery cook works the grill, serving up tasty dishes for shift-workers and operagoers alike: a mince pie for Fox, a ham sandwich for Badger and puddings for little Possums. Mouse, a poor street sweeper, watches as the line of customers swells, ever hopeful that someone will drop a morsel of food — but Owl’s cooking is far too delicious for more than a crumb to be found. As the evening’s service winds down, weary Owl spots trembling Mouse. Has he found his own night lunch, or will he invite this small sweeper inside for a midnight feast for two?


From the imagination of two acclaimed picture book creators, together for the first time, this dreamlike picture book is a magical ode to Victorian lunch wagons. Evoking the sounds, sights, smells and tastes of the city at night, Night Lunch reveals how empathy and kindness as well as dignity and gratitude can be found — and savored — in the most unexpected places.


Opening Lines:

Clip clop, a midnight moon

The Night Lunch cart rolls in


What I LOVED about this book:

With only one succinct, lyrical line along the bottom of each page, this picture book is almost a wordless picture book. Additionally, the text is written in a very poetic fashion without ending punctuation; encouraging a soft, lulling reading, perfect for a bedtime story. The opening scene of a pretty white horse pulling a light-bedecked, old fashioned wagon along a night time street is simply magical.

Text © Eric Fan, 2022. Image © Dena Seiferling, 2022.


Clip clop, a midnight moon

The Night Lunch cart rolls in


As a cricket washes a window, a sparkling swirl and a feather swoop from the cart twirling around a little mouse, "Sweep sweep, dust and leaf/Windows all aglow". And we see a cast of nocturnal patrons (foxes, badgers, porcupines, and possums) wearing bowlers, feather hats, bow ties, and pearls eagerly follow the night lunch carts' inviting aromas. As they queue up, we get a great glimpse of the cart and hint at the chef - "Night Owl" is emblazoned on the cart's side.

The soft, sepia toned digital illustrations are packed with intricate details.. Once "Tick hum, oven's on/Pots and spoons are clanging", Owl creates and serves mincemeat pies, sandwiches (BLT & Sausage w/ Peppers), fried eggs, biscuits, butter rolls, and puddings. I adore the tiny chef's hat perched on the owl's head and Eric Fan's expansion of the enthusiastic customers to include moths, bats, skunk, chipmunk, racoon, and cats. The soft candles, string lights, and decor create a magical atmosphere to the cart. With ever-expanding room for diners and treats, the cart appears bigger on the inside (Dr. Whoo, perhaps?) Additionally, the occasional eyes peering into the cart or even whimsically up from under the manhole cover add to the lightly spooky, magical aura of the book.

Text © Eric Fan, 2022. Image © Dena Seiferling, 2022.


As the sky lightens, Owl notices the hungry street sweeper mouse trembling against a wall. In a touching wordless spread, bucking typical norms, Owl tips its hat and invites the mouse into the cart for a truly magical night feast - for two. Owl even gives mouse a to-go bag before the cart moves on, leaving a suspended feather trailing a few twinkles. What mouse does with the bag further enforces the unspoken, gentle theme of kindness, compassion, community, and hope.


This is another book where the end papers wonderfully encase the story. Although they don't necessarily involve "a change" in the story, they beautifully capture the passage of time. Perhaps reinforcing that the actions we've seen shouldn't be regarded as changes or amazing occurrences, but how life should be. A dawning of hope and caring for everyone.

© Dena Seiferling, 2022.

I wish I could show you all the illustrations, they really are full of magic, a touch of spookiness, and delicious food! Be prepared to need a snack or have a sudden craving for baked goods after reading this book. A wonderful bedtime or snuggle read about an emotionally resonant nocturnal animal cast enjoying a slightly surreal evening, which very subtly explores compassion and gratitude. It has such a timeless feel and has already become a treasure on my shelf.


Resources:

- make your own owl chef (don't forget his hat) and sweeper mouse. What foods would your owl and mouse make if they ran a Night Lunch Cart? Grub fries?

- plan an afternoon tea for a family member or friend. What special snacks would you include?

- watch for ways that you can help others, at home, in school, and around the neighborhood.

- if you've ever eaten from a food cart, what was your favorite meal? What do you wish they sold from a food cart?


If you missed the interview with Eric Fan and Dena Seiferling on Monday, find it (here).


This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

Decorative scroll design
Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

Decorative scroll design

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