Jerome and Jarrett Pumphrey, illustrated by Rosanne Litzinger, Creepy Things Are Scaring Me (Harper Collins, 2003)

We live in Alaska, where all summer long it stays light out until well after my son's bed time. Now that winter is on the way, though, my son has suddenly become very aware of the changes in his own bedroom at night. He's not really afraid, but he does like to talk about the shadows he sees on the walls, and how different his toys look in the darkness.

Creepy Things Are Scaring Me is a picture book that speaks directly to children who are afraid of the dark. Mama tucks her little boy into bed, and then turns out the light. "The room gets dark. The room gets creepy. The room's soooooo dark that I'm not sleepy." The boy's fertile imagination then transforms his normally friendly bedroom into a terrifying place. The teddy bear against the wall becomes a "creepy monster," the cold air above him becomes a "creepy thing" on the ceiling, and even the puppy sleeping under his bed is making frightening noises. Eventually the little boy gets scared enough to call for his mother, who turns on the light and shows him that each of his monsters is really something very ordinary.

The text is rhythmic and catchy, but it's the illustrations by Rosanne Litzinger that really steal the show for this book. The artwork is relatively simple, but the expressions on the faces of the mother, her child, and in particular each of the "creepy things" are really wonderful. After reading a picture book about forty times at the request of an enraptured three-year-old, you begin to notice the little things. Like the fact that although the terrified little boy's face is pitiful enough to make any mother's heart ache, the monsters actually appear to be completely innocent, and even a little apprehensive themselves. Considering they're a product of the boy's imagination in the first place, this is an interesting choice on the part of the artist.

While touching the hearts of parents, this book helps remind children that monsters are not real and that things that seem strange or scary in the dark are really nothing to fear. Recommended for ages three to six.

[Christine Doiron]