Smoky Night
Smoky Night

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Annotation: A child's eye view of urban violence in a riot-torn city.
Catalog Number: #275359
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Common Core/STEAM: Common Core Common Core
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Copyright Date: 1994
Edition Date: 1999
Illustrator: Diaz, David,
Pages: 40
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-15-201884-0 Perma-Bound: 0-605-05704-4
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-15-201884-9 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-05704-3
Dewey: E
LCCN: 93014885
Dimensions: 26 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Bunting says she wrote this story after the Los Angeles riots made her wonder about what riots mean to the children who live through them. A boy and his cat look down from the window at people rioting in the streets below. His mother explains that rioting can happen when people get angry: They want to smash and destroy. They don't care anymore what's right and wrong. The boy says that they look angry, but they look happy, too. He sees them looting Mrs. Kim's grocery store across the street; his mother never shopped there. That night, the apartment building burns, and everyone has to rush out to the shelter. The boy's cat is gone, and so is Mrs. Kim's cat, but a kind fire fighter finds both animals; they were hiding together. Then Bunting overstates her message: maybe the people, like the cats, need to get to know each other, so the boy's mother and Mrs. Kim agree to visit. Diaz's art is powerful--pulsating and crowded; part street mural, part urban collage. In each double-page spread, the background is a photograph of found objects and debris in a variety of textures and jagged shapes. On the right-hand page is an acrylic painting like a view through a heavy window, with thick lines and bright neon colors showing a multicultural cast. In fine contrast, the story is told quietly from the child's point of view, safe with his mother despite the fear, reaching out to the neighborhood community within the chaos. (Reviewed Mar. 1, 1994)
Horn Book
When the smell of smoke wakens Daniel and his mother during the night, they flee from the rioting outside their apartment to a shelter. Inspired by an innocent comment from Daniel, his mother introduces herself to a neighbor; the African-American woman's attempt to reach out to the Korean-American woman is a clear result of surviving the riots together. The bold artwork is a perfect match for the intensity of the story.
Kirkus Reviews
A noted author (Fly Away Home, 1991) brings all her empathy and creative skill to another timely topic: an inner-city riot. Standing well back from their window, Daniel and his mama watch looters steal TVs and break into Kim's market. When it quiets down the two fall asleep, only to be roused: their building is burning, so they escape, through ravaged streets, to a shelter. Though Bunting offers no reasons for the violence, she succinctly describes the mob's psychology. Mama explains, ``...people get angry. They want to smash and destroy. They don't care anymore what's right...After a while it's like a game,'' while Daniel observes, ``They look angry. But they look happy, too.'' The story is rounded out with a touch of reconciliation: Mama has't patronized Kim's market (``'s better if we buy from our own people'') but, after Daniel's cat and Mrs. Kims' make friends at the shelter, the people realize that they, too, could be friendly. Diaz's art—rough-edged acrylic paintings mounted on collages of paper, burnt matches, and materials that might be found blowing on a California street—is extraordinarily powerful. Defined in heavy black, the expressionistically rendered faces are intense with smoky shades and dark, neon-lit color. An outstandingly handsome book that represents its subject realistically while underplaying the worst of its horrors; an excellent vehicle for discussion. (Picture book. 4+)"
Publishers Weekly
In a starred review of this 1995 Caldecott winner, PW praised the """"thought-provoking"""" and """"thoroughly believable"""" text, about urban violence, and the """"dazzling"""" mixed-media collages. Ages 3-8. (Apr.)
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-Daniel and his mother watch through their window as an urban riot is in progress. She tries to explain what is happening as he sees the laughing people break into the neighborhood stores and rob them. One of the victims is Mrs. Kim, whose cat is the enemy of his cat, Jasmine. Daniel's mother doesn't shop at Mrs. Kim's store because she feels it's better to ``buy from our own people.'' Later, their building is set on fire and he and his mother go with their neighbors to a shelter. The boy worries about Jasmine, and is relieved when a fireman brings her and Mrs. Kim's cat to the shelter. The felines have learned to get along in their shared danger. Bunting skillfully uses the voice of the child narrator. His innocent view of the riots makes the destructive behavior of the rioters more abhorrent. His suggestion that the cats were enemies only because they did not know each other well enough enables the adults to reach out to one another and bridge the distance their prejudice has kept between them. Diaz illustrates the story with bold, dark, stylized acrylic paintings framed by collage backgrounds of various textured objects usually reflecting the text. When the rioters loot a dry cleaners, for example, the background is wire hangers and plastic film. The pictures are more arresting than appealing, but they invite discussion and will stimulate thoughtful responses to this quietly powerful story.-Louise L. Sherman, Anna C. Scott School, Leonia, NJ
Word Count: 1,265
Reading Level: 2.4
Interest Level: K-3
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 2.4 / points: 0.5 / quiz: 10202 / grade: Lower Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:2.5 / points:2.0 / quiz:Q10560
Lexile: 530L

Winner of the 1995 Caldecott Medal In a night of rioting, Daniel and his mother are forced to leave their apartment for the safety of a shelter. "Diaz has not been afraid to take risks in illustrating the story with thickly textured paintings against a background of torn-paper and found-object collage. Without becoming cluttered or gimmicky, these pictures manage to capture a calamitous atmosphere that finally calms. . . . Both author and artist have managed to portray a politically charged event without pretense orpreaching."-- The Bulletin

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