The Midnight Fair

The Midnight Fair
Gideon Sterer and Mariachiara Di Giorgio
Walker Books

Oh WOW! This is such a superb wordess book ( wordless save for the occasional fairground signs) – definitely one of the very best I’ve seen and way too good to restrict to a particular audience.

As the book opens, forest creatures – bears, squirrels, deer, a stoat, racoons, a badger, a fox, rabbits, mice, a wolf – watch from beyond the fence as the fair unloads. From the edge of the woodlands they see the fairground filling up with humans large and small who spend the entire day enjoying the thrills, leaving only as night descends. The keeper switches off the lights.

From the shadows the animals emerge – it’s their turn now for some of that fun. In they come eyes aglow, through a gap in the fence, two racoons reactivate the power and the place becomes theirs. We also feel it’s ours, so immersive are the illustrations. As well as revelling in the rides and other attractions the animals take on the roles of the stall holders using various natural objects – acorns, pinecones, shells, leaves, fungi and wild flowers – as payment and we can almost inhale the scents of popcorn and candy floss.

At daybreak, the keeper wakes; it’s time for the animals to leave. Tired but very happy and a tad messy, they clear up the entire place and hurry away in the nick of time,

leaving only some of their currency on the ticket counter. But, their business is not quite done yet: as the others bed down, wolf carrying the goldfish won at the hoop-la stall, heads down to the lake and releases it into the water.

With clever use of both dark and light, and the natural world and the human one, Mariachiara Di Giorgio’s mixed media spreads, both detailed frames and expansive double page scenes, are a satisfying mix of the whimsical and the wondrous. This is one of those books that the more you read it, the more emerges.

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