Night School by Isobelle Carmody and Anne Spudvilas (illustrator)

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Penguin Viking, 2010. ISBN 978 0670072071.
Picture book. A picture book which could scare the pants of its readers, Night School is definitely one for the older readers, with its atmospheric illustrations done in a variety of media, oil paint, water colour, graphite and coloured ink, and a story which gathers momentum as a group of children stay overnight in the seemingly deserted school. The instruction that each child, alone, goes into the hall then must go into each of three rooms and write their name on the list provided, is followed by the group, but they decide that as this is a war, then they must form a company and go together. They follow the light from the row of candles leading them into each room and do what they have been asked, until with a lantern they summon the boys and then find themselves face to face with the prince of midwinter night.
Hints of past wars, captured children, a lost sister, an odd caretaker abound to make the story redolent with all sorts of possibilities and yet none. The eeriness is a puff of smoke, a fog of words and illustrations, drawing the reader into its core, only to find nothing there. But it will cause an intense amount of discussion as readers use the clues to create their own stories, reasons, backgrounds and myths.
Fran Knight