“On the night of the good-night kiss, a small green frog peeks out from under a lily pad.” The illustrations by Walter Lyon Krudop are beautiful – and they walk the reader through a series of animals watching the setting sun. The green frog sees an old raccoon, “sniffing along the pond bank, looking for something to eat.” And the ripples on the pond are a shimmering orange – while a dark red flower leans in the foreground.
The story travels to a new creature on nearly every page, and the book offers a breath-taking glimpse into the world of nature. “I have always had a dream of living the country,” the illustrator reveals on the book’s jacket, “and I think that’s where the inspiration for these paintings comes from.” In the light of the rising moon, there’s the silvery outline of a deer drinking from the pond. And Krudop’s next illustration shows that same deer – as seen from an owl flying across a field overhead.
The owls wings are spread in a spectacular array of feathers – matching the lines of the furrows in the field below. And in the next drawing, the owl’s landed in a dark window at the very top of a tall, red barn. Looking down into the shadows, it can just make out the dim colors on the shirt of a farmer. And the farmer’s climbing down from the seat of his tractor – where he glimpses a man in pickup truck driving down a dusty road…
It’s a beautiful book, and I love the illustrations, but there’s also something zen-like about the story by Jim Aylesworth. The man’s pickup truck pulls into a gas station – where it sees an enormous 18-wheeler that’s lit up in the moonlight. The 18-wheeler travels under a railroad bridge, and the truck’s driver spots the man in the lighted window of a freight train’s caboose. There’s moody night-time drawings for every scene, but Aylesworth keeps adding more and more new people to his mysterious chain of omniscience….
Aylesworth dedicates the book to “those who tuck them in, with love!” and it’s a hint about how he’ll ultimately end the story. I was expecting the series to end with one creature finally catching a glimpse of the small green frog that’s peeking out from under a lily pad. But instead Aylesworth ends his story with a tiny white moth, catching a gentle glimpse of a parent who’s giving their child a good-night kiss. And the book ends with two sweet, simple words.