As a child, I lived surrounded by Kansas farmland. I remember crawling out the window of my second story home and sitting on the roof for hours, enchanted by the constellations.
Years later, in 2008, I was honored to be part of Sequoia National Park Foundation’s Authors in the Back Country. With others, I rode horseback into the high Sierras for a weeklong nature adventure. We camped at 10,000 feet. The first night I remember opening the tent flap, looking up into the darkness, and laughing out loud at the brilliance of the heavens and the number of stars I could see. I don’t think I’d ever seen so many. I wished everyone might be able to see the night sky in this way. At that moment, I tucked an idea in my mind. It was a wish to write a picture book to demonstrate the harm done by light pollution, with a group of animal characters searching, not for the light, but for the dark.
This description of Lights Out shows that wishes do come true:
“In a world marred by light pollution, this quest for true darkness is a clarion call to turn out the lights—so that all may see.”
Creatures search for Night in this story about the negative effects of light pollution.
In the coastal town in which they live, Fox and Beetle see an abundance of artificial light and set out to search for “the Dark of Night.” Instead, they find electric lights everywhere, ones that confuse Songbird, silence Frog, and disturb Bear’s hibernation. Each of these creatures joins Fox and Beetle on their journey into new terrains, including mountains, deserts, and dunes, but all are still dominated by electric lights. When they come upon baby turtles hatching on the shore, the creatures decide to swim to a small island. Finally, they see the natural nighttime light they crave. A rhythmic refrain (“Across the wide, wide world, / they search… / for the Dark of Night. // But everywhere—Lights!”) creates a satisfying cadence in the text. Two spreads toward the open and close of the story feature short rhymes in four stanzas about the kinds of artificial and natural lights the creatures encounter; these anchor the story and contrast the two kinds of light in appealing ways. The closing spreads with the dark sky and natural, nocturnal lights are enchanting. Stars twinkle, and the moon glows, as Mother Nature would have it. The fade-in title design on the book’s cover is especially smart, communicating much about the story. An author’s note kicks off the book, noting how little we hear about light pollution. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)
Illuminating. (Picture book. 4-8)