Next on the bookworm trail is another story with 'good-night' in the title - Valerie and the Good-Night Swing by Mira Lobe. I don't have any real reason for chosing this one, other than randomly finding it in a bookshop and liking the illustrations 🙂
Valerie is supposed to be going to bed, but instead she decides to play on the swing that is attached to the door frame of her bedroom. She imagines her way through several adventures: Turbanland, a fisherman's ship, a farm, a train, a snowy mountain, and a circus. Daddy makes several very vague attempts to get Valerie to stop faffing about and go to sleep, apparently finally succeeding on the very last page.
Well, the illustrations are lovely. Each of Valerie's adventures is spread over two pages. The first shows Valerie on her swing with the start of the adventure merging with her cot and her bedroom. In the second, Valerie is fully emerged in her imagination. The pictures really draw you into the action, and they are richly coloured and detailed. You can imagine a child poring over them, trying to spot everything that's going on.
'Can't you hear?'
My toy train
is calling me.
Shall I take
my animals on a holiday?
I shall take them all
on the train...
'Here's the train - look!
Can't you see?
Daddy, will you
come with me?
Unfortunately, for me, the text really lets the book down. It seems quite forced and clunky and it doesn't flow very well. The words are pushed to one side of the page and right aligned into long columns. It might look nice against the pictures, but all the short, choppy line breaks make it feel a bit like bad poetry. Some parts rhyme and some don't, it's all a bit inconsistent. It feels a bit like the text was written for the illustrations, instead of the other way round. In fact, illustrator Winfried Opgenoorth gets the first billing on the front cover, so this might actually be the case. I think much of the problem is probably down to the fact that it has been translated from German (I think). Perhaps it all worked a lot better in the original.
Also, Valerie is kind of annoying! Her Dad spends most of the book trying to get her to go to bed, and the text does point out at several points that she's being quite naughty. Yet she continues swinging and having imaginary adventures and ignoring dear old Dad. Maybe the author was just trying to suggest that she was enjoying an alternative 'bedtime story' and that it's ok because she eventually wears herself out and goes to sleep.
No doubt the imaginary worlds and the freedom she seems to have would appeal to young children. But I have to say that as a Mum, I kind of wanted Dad to just put his foot down a bit and wrestle her out of the swing and into bed.
All-in-all, lovely pictures, but I'm afraid this isn't one I would have enjoyed reading out loud to small children. I probably would have ended up hiding it under the bed so they didn't get any ideas about bedtime shenanagins.
Details and Availability
- Title: Valerie and the Good-Night Swing
- Author: Mira Lobe (trans. Peter Carter)
- Illustrator: Winfried Opgenoorth
- Date: 1981
- Link to previous: Title
Valerie and the Good-Night Swing is out of print.