After Squidnight by Jonathan E. Fenske

When midnight hits, long after you’re supposed to be snug in your bed, the squids come out to play. They slink out of the ocean and head straight for … your window! And if they get inside? Watch out because they’ll leave their inky art on every surface.

Scour advice for writing a picture book and one general nugget of information pops up over and over again: don’t write in rhyme. It’s too hard and the results are often messy. However, thank goodness there are authors out there like Jonathan Fenske who ignore that misguided refrain. Yes, a good rhyming text is incredibly hard to master, but when it work, it’s glorious.

Here Fenske’s text is filled with expert rhymes that propel the squids through their mischievous nighttime antics. Moreover, his text strikes the right balance between quirky and creepy while always remaining funny. Though the prospect of a convention of cephalopods could be terrifying, Fenske keeps their escapades wacky with just a hint of tension.

All of this is aided by his grayscale illustrations that utilize strategic pops of teal. It’s a striking choice reminiscent of classic black-and-white monster movies. Rather than being full-on menacing, though, the spreads are toned down by Fenske’s otherwise cartoonish style. In lesser hands, this could feel lopsided, but Fenske masters this balancing act on page after page.

Fun rhymes, inky illustrations, and an equally strong concept combine for a charmingly atmospheric read. So do be sure to lock the windows before Squidnight!

Title: After Squidnight
Author: Jonathan E. Fenske
Publisher: Penguin Workshop
Publication Date: July 28, 2020
Classification: Picture Book

Fenske’s Website | Publisher’s Page | Goodreads

Note: I received a free ARC of this book through Edelweiss.


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