Night Ride, by Bernie and Mati Karlin

Night Ride, by Bernie and Mati Karlin

“Night Ride” is a children’s book that you experience instead of just reading. Every drawing is a dark scene from the night of mother’s car trip with her son. And every sentence is a part of their conversation. The book opens as they wave good-bye to the boy’s sister and father – seen in silhouette on the steps of their house. “Good-bye, Dad. Good-bye, Susie.” And the adventure has begun…

“Is your seat belt fastened?” the mother asks with a smile. But she’ll never be shown again, since the book switches to views of what’s outside their car.  “Careful, Billy. Don’t drop the money,” his mother says as their call pulls into a toll booth. The toll-taker is shown smiling back – and his booth is decorated with dimly-lit signs. Turn the page, and there’s a spectacular view of the city lights at night.  

“Wow!” says Billy.
“Pretty, isn’t it?” says his mother…

And it is pretty – a two-page spread showing the black outlines of buildings, sprinkled with lights, under the moon and the stars, behind the shadowy towers of a bridge. The pictures provide all of the details about what they see – including an airplane coming in for a landing, an overturned delivery truck, and the lights of a distant amusement park. They’re simple but realistic pictures documenting the random speckles of light in those quick glimpses of the world at nighttime – and there’s a gentle magnificence to it all. The final page shows a sunrise over a village, but the rest of the book captures the magic and mystery of night.

The entire plot of the book is delivered wordlessly – only implied in those spaces around the conversation. Because of its simplicity, Simon and Schuster labeled it as one of their books “for young readers,” but it’s still a nice example of the everyday love in a family. It was written by the husband-and-wife team of Bernie and Mati Karlin (and illustrated by Bernie Karlin). And on the first page, the couple dedicated the book to their parents, their children, and their grandchildren.

It’s an original book, and its plot would probably be described as “naturalistic”. But once readers discover the book’s pattern, it’s a lot of fun – and it still leaves lots of room for imagination. And despite all the mystery, the book still ends on a positive note.

“Are you asleep, Billy?

“It’s going to be a beautiful day.”

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