If we haven’t much time in the library I’ll often select the books we take home simply by picking up all those that have been displayed prominently on the top shelves in the kids’ library (rather than having been filed away alphabetically). This approach often yields books I might not have found otherwise and On a Dark Dark Night By Simon Prescott is a case in point.
Prescott completed his MA in children’s book illustration just about 3 years ago and this is his second published book (Small Mouse Big City being his first book). He was shortlisted for Booktrust’s Best Emerging Illustrator last year (the eventual winner was Katie Cleminson with Box of Tricks, which regulars will know I reviewed here) and judging by On a Dark Dark Night it won’t be long until Prescott is not only shortlisted but actually wins his first award.
On a Dark Dark Night tells the story of a mouse on an adventure once the sun has set.
In a dark, dark wood…
there was a dark dark path.
Along the dark, dark path…
there was a dark, dark town.
With each line the tension builds – where is the mouse going? Will he make it? Will some terrible mishap befall him? Readers and listeners will end up holding their breath in nervous anticipation as they notice in the dark shadows all sorts of threats to the mouse as he tries to reach his destination.
The repetitive, rhythmic text ensures this books is great to read aloud (just like Funnybones by the Ahlbergs, although here the text and illustrations are somewhat darker, both literally and metaphorically). As each page is turned don’t be surprised if you and your kids move closer to the edge of your seats – the suspense is deliciously thrilling, and made all the more enjoyable by the surprising, delightful end to the tale.
The illustrations are quite a revelation for me – colours are what tend to grab my attention when I’m looking at book illustrations (like in Here Comes Frankie, or Flyaway Katie, which I reviewed here and here) – but in On a Dark Dark Night Prescott has used a limited palatte – browns, black and muted yellow – and yet his illustrations are so rich that I surprised myself by falling in love with them.
To go with this lovely book we decided to make some edible mice. I loved the look of these treats, found via Bilbified, but cherries are out of season here so instead we decided to make bread mice that we could have for supper with a bit of cheese and soup.
Here’s our basic bread recipe (enough for two large loaves or 10 generously proportioned mice):
1. Mix 200ml of cold water with 100ml of just boiled water. Add 2 tsp of sugar and 2 dessert spoons of dried yeast. Mix then leave until froth is at least a couple of cm high, but preferably not so high as to be flowing over the top of your jug (which happens to me regularly).
2. Mix your two types of flour together. Add your yeasty water and froth, plus another 400 ml of water (made up of about 250ml cold water, 150 hot water from the kettle – I don’t reboil the kettle for the earlier stage, so the water isn’t boiling).
3. Bring flour and liquid together and knead. You may need to add a little extra flour to get the dough to a nice non sticky consistency. I don’t knead for very long – perhaps 5 minutes. It depends on what’s on the radio and what my kids are getting up to!
4. Leave the dough to double or thereabout in size. Depending on whether my heating is on and whether it is summer or not, this may take between 45 minutes and a couple of hours.
5. Knead the dough again for a few minutes, split into two and put into two 2lb greased and floured bread tins. Leave to rise for a second time – until the dough is domed above the rim of the tin (again, depending on ambient temperature this may take between 45 mins and a couple of hours).
6. Bake your bread for 20 minutes in an oven preheated to 220 C. Turn the oven down after 20 minutes to 200 C and bake your bread for another 15 minutes. Remove bread from tins and knock the base of each loaf – if it sounds hollow all is well, otherwise give the loaves another couple of minutes in the over.
7. Try to wait until the loaves are cool before slicing and buttering thickly…. yum yum yum!
For the mice we did as above up to stage 5. Instead of putting the bread into tins we shaped it into mice with tales and left the dough to prove a second time. Just before putting the bread in the over we added various nuts to create eyes, noses and ears, and spaghetti for whiskers. The mice only needed about 20 mins at 220 C and then they were ready.
I think these mice might have a bit of a complex as they look like they might have some feline DNA in them, but whatever their genetics, they were delicious for supper!
On a Dark Dark Night: ** (2 stars)
Here’s today’s playlist!
Some other mice which have caught our eye include:
What are your favourite kids’ books about night time or about mice?