Remember the thrill of playing with a torch in the dark? Whether outside in a back garden or simply under the bedcovers, a focused beam of light made everything look different and strange as it swept from one secret corner to another.
This wordless book celebrates that magic as a boy discovers just how much fun he can have using a flashlight to explore a dark garden full of amazing creatures.
The blurb describes the book as a ‘visual poem’, and this seems an apt description. The book encourages the reader to focus attention on a single thing, while still being aware of the wider picture – in much the same way that a poem might encourage us to linger on an individual word, yet still create an overall mood.
Lizi Boyd is an American artist who lives in Vermont, and she rendered these illustrations in gouache. They show a sensitivity to the natural world, which is also evident in her concern to use vegetable-based inks and acid-free papers for the cards and notebooks she makes. As well as illustrating children’s books, Boyd also works with paint, clay, fabric and laser-cut wood.
The background night-time images in Flashlight are shown in muted black and grey, while items that can be seen in the bright-white beam of the torch are illustrated in colour.
Several other types of light are referenced in this book, too, such as moonlight, reflective bark, and some animal and plants’ natural luminescence. In addition to the arcs of torchlight, there are small, almost invisible, die-cut holes for peeping into the following spread to see what’s coming next.
Each spread is packed with variety of different creatures to spot. These include a raccoon, owl, fox, mice, deer, skunks, birds, bats, porcupine, frog, turtle and even fish. The creatures are either deeply engaged in what’s going on with the little boy, or are busy doing their own thing, such as building a nest, sleeping, hiding or nibbling.
Plenty of trees and plants are shown too, such as apple trees, silver birch, ferns, grasses, flowers and even fungi in the form or mushrooms. Then there are the insects, including moths, ants, dragonflies and beetles, and a delicate spider’s web. This garden is literally teeming with nature.
The book maintains interest through its careful pacing. At the beginning it is all about the boy looking at the animals; but halfway through the tables are turned and then it’s about the animals looking at the boy. Occasionally, too, the reader is gently reminded of the human world that frames this adventure with a view of a washing line, or an outline of a climbing frame.
Flashlight is a beautiful book that repays repeated reading. There are so many interesting creatures to spot and mini storylines to follow. For instance who’s awake and who’s asleep? Why is the boy taking off his boots? What is the beaver doing with that pile of logs? And what is the naughty raccoon up to? There is also a very subtle and positive message about sharing and making friends.