Friday 17 September 2021

Night Lights

Night Lights written by Inda Ahmad Zahri and illustrated by Lesley McGee (Little Pink Dog Books) RRP $24.99 ISBN 9780648652847

Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

Using the idea of different kinds of light, this story describes a child growing up at their grandparents’ house in the Malaysian countryside.  Beginning with a colourful full-page illustration of children playing in the jungle with monkeys and a monitor lizard, the reader is shown a very different life to contemporary Australia. The focus is the night-time and the different kinds of light they have including generator electricity, lanterns, torches and then more natural kinds such as the moon, stars, fireflies and glow worms. It’s also an exploration of the love of a close family and the culture and stories the adults Tok-Mak and Tok-Bah share with their grandchildren.

Lesley MGee’s illustrations are evocative, and you can almost feel the humidity and hear the ‘tch-tch-tch’ sound of geckos, the chirp of crickets. Also beautiful is the prose, for example describing the fireflies: ‘Flecks of light floated along the long grass like raindrops falling upwards.’  The grandmother Tok Mak slicing ginger roots for tomorrow’s meals and her orchid scented perfume further stimulates the imaginative senses. It’s lovely to be immersed in a story and taken to another place, especially in times when that’s not so easy in real life.

This is author Inda Ahmad Zahri’s second book published this year – her debut picture book Salih came out in March. Night Lights is suitable for children aged 4-10 years.


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