All Around Bustletown: Nighttime

All Around Bustletown: Nighttime
Rotraut Susanne Berner
Prestel

The award-winning creator of the seasonal Bustletown series of large format picture books shows us the town’s nocturnal happenings across an hour in this latest offering.

Look very closely – that’s always what you need to do to get the most from each spread – and you’ll see on the opening pages that it’s ten o’clock on a kitchen clock in a multi-generational residence. There’s still a fair bit of activity in and around the building: a boy (Joshua) is spending the night under canvas and reading by torchlight while his father (presumably) points to his wristwatch.
A couple (Cara and John) are taking a stroll – we learn the names from the back cover – and a cyclist, Frank rides past, sans light.
If we follow these characters, stories unfold. As Frank passes a petrol station with a police car being filled at the pump, one of the officers notices the lack of lights on his bike

and Tony chases after and eventually apprehends him several minutes later. I love the sleepover on the same spread – how many of the literary pictures do you recognise exhibited in the cultural centre?

Turn over and Frank is now pushing his bike, the strollers sit on a bench watching as the police deal with an attempted break-in at the dentist’s above the bookshop and a dog takes Cara’s hat.
On the penultimate spread we see the police have now caught the burglar, and the dog (plus hat) are hotly pursued by a man. In the final scene said hat is once again spied by Cara; Frank chains up his cycle outside a food outlet in front of which the police car is passing.
If you turn back to the beginning, you might decide to follow the man in black seen sitting in the police car in the final scene. Indeed it’s possible to trace all the recurring characters and Berner poses several questions on the back cover that will likely send you back for another read.

With the same mixture of a look-and-find and chances to invent your own stories, there’s hours of fun to be found in this totally immersive, cleverly created book.

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