The Midnight Fair won the 2022 Yoto Kate Greenaway Shadowers’ Choice award. It was one of two wordless picturebooks up for the 2022 Yoto Kate Greenaway Medal, the other being The Wanderer by Peter Van den Ende (see earlier post on this site).
The paperback edition has a large image of a ticket on the right-hand opening page. This serves a dual role – as a bookplate for a child to fill in their name and as an invitation to take an active role in the story. Because this book is wordless, readers do indeed take an active role as they act as co-creators by supplying their own words to the pictures.
The book is an imaginative fantasy about a group of animals who, after the humans have left, take over an empty fairground for the night and thoroughly enjoy themselves.
The storyline was devised by American author Gideon Sterer, and the illustrations were made by Mariachiara Di Giorgio, an Italian artist with a background in film storyboarding.
Di Giorgio’s cinematic techniques are evident in her lively watercolour artwork and help to give the book a powerful sense of spectacle.
The brightly lit fairground attractions contrast dramatically with the night-time scenes, such as that of the vast rollercoaster ride (see below) painted in deep blues and purples. Speed and movement are are vividly captured, as can be seen in the swing boat scene.
The illustrations are detailed and sensuous. For instance you can almost smell the sweetness of the candy floss and popcorn pieces. And there’s plenty of visual humour, too, such as when one anxious bear hides its eyes during a scary dodgem-car ride.
Embedded in the story are some gentle moral messages. One animal, a wolf pup, is a compassionate soul; while another, a bear, is a sort of parental figure, handing out berries, pine cones, seed-heads, and snail shells as ‘payment’ for the entertainment.
Both through the richness of its illustrations and through the book’s depiction of an ‘in-between’ liminal space, The Midnight Fair creates a magical world where the boundary between humans and animals is, for one splendid fictional night, suspended.
Mariachiara Di Giorgio’s previous wordless book was Profession Crocodile with author Giovanna Zoboli (see earlier post on this site).