Things that occur in the dark are mysteries to young children. For the more adventuresome, a late night walk with an adult could be illuminating. For the child who wants to nestle into bed and be read a bedtime story, there is Nine Things Nathan Noticed at Night by Christy Baldwin, a short picture book that introduces the child to some facts behind the mysteries.
Nathan’s nine things are related only by their nocturnal occurrence. One such happening is “Raccoons and Skunks wander in our yard looking for food.” The author provides an explanation of the activity Nathan has observed and an associated Bible verse. Charmingly primitive watercolors by Sarah Barnes complete each lesson.
Because the book is only 18 pages long and contains a minimum of text, one might be tempted to read it to a child in one sitting. However, each of Nathan’s nine things can be approached individually as a springboard for discussion. All of the Bible verses are taken from the Old Testament and invite conversation on the nature of God and creation. For example, Psalm 90:4 “He is like a watch in the night” accompanies “Owls and bats only come out when its dark” (sic). The somewhat pedantic facts behind the “things,” may also lead to interesting discussions on a variety of topics including the mating habits of crickets.
Nine Things Nathan Noticed at Night is recommended for 3- to 8-year-olds, but 7- and 8-year-olds will probably find one reading enough; there’s not much substance. It is also not appropriate as an “early reader” book, as some of the words and concepts are foreign to the very young. Adults will find an inconsistency of style and an unfortunate grammatical error. Since Nathan is not actually introduced in the text — he is represented by an illustration of the back of a pajama-clad child looking out a window — those reading to children are required to provide the back-story.
Bottom line: Would I buy this book? Sadly, no. I enjoyed the alliterative title and an illustration of skunks by a garbage can, but little else. For a book designed for a young audience, it is surprisingly emotionless.