#362 City night magic

First published Sept. 1, 2018.
The Night the Forest Came to Town

by Charles Ghigna, illustrated by Annie Wilkinson

Victoria: Orca Books, 2018

$19.95 / 9781459816503

Reviewed by Carol Anne Shaw

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Nature reclaims and transforms a city in Charles Gigna’s The Night the Forest Came to Town, illustrated by Annie Wilkinson. Carol Anne Shaw notes that the book “reminds us of the importance of being in the present moment, and also gives a tip of the hat to Mother Nature’s quiet tenacity.” — Ed.

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What a delight to sit in the shade of the cedars and read Charles Ghigna and Annie Wilkinson’s picture book, The Night the Forest Came to Town.

Told in ABAB-perfect rhyme scheme, it is the story of an urban town that undergoes a mysterious transformation overnight, one that leaves city sidewalks suddenly covered with creeping foliage, rooftops sprouting lush gardens, and a night sky filled with a flock of seed-carrying birds.

Charles Ghigna is the author of more than 100 books, and lives in a tree house in the middle of Alabama. No wonder he is able to capture the beauty of the natural world so well.

With a lovely cadence, his charming verse flows effortlessly from page to page, brought to life by Annie Wilkinson’s stunning, lavender-hued illustrations.

Charles Ghigna. Photo by Debra Ghigna

Children will love this whimsical story, and adults will no doubt find it easy and enjoyable to read. Take, for example, the following stanzas:

A steady rain began to fall
Upon the town in sheets
As saplings started taking root
Along the city streets
 

A stirring in the shadows
Found green shoots rising fast
Framing city sidewalks
With borders made of grass

You could almost sing them!

Wilkinson, a talented illustrator residing in Vancouver, has cleverly included powerful little stories and messages within some of her images — stories the verse does not reveal to the reader.

My favourite falls on the first page of the book, when we read:

It was silent in the city
When the cracks began to form
In the evening late one summer
When the concrete was still warm

Annie Wilkinson

And in Wilkinson’s accompanying illustration, we see delighted children crouching in the street as the magic unfolds. They point to the tops of buildings; they stare up at the sky in wonder; but the adults in the streets are too busy looking at their smart phones to notice the magic happening around them.

Nice! And what a perfect opportunity to share an important discussion about connectivity, engagement, and observation. Ten points for that one.

The Night the Forest Came to Town is a gorgeous little book — one that ultimately reminds us of the importance of being in the present moment, and also gives a tip of the hat to Mother Nature’s quiet tenacity.

This story is visually stunning, refreshing in its simplicity, and will no doubt become a “Can we read it again?” favourite among readers of all ages.

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Carol Anne Shaw

Carol Anne Shaw is the author of the “Hannah” books, all from Ronsdale Press: Hannah & the Spindle Whorl (2010), Hannah & the Salish Sea (2013), and Hannah & the Wild Woods (2015). When not writing, Carol Anne can often be found painting at her easel or hiking the local trails that surround her home in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island.

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 The Ormsby Review. More Books. More Reviews. More Often.

Editor/Designer/Writer: Richard Mackie

Publisher/Writer: Alan Twigg

The Ormsby Review is a journal service for serious coverage of B.C. books and authors, hosted by Simon Fraser University. The Advisory Board consists of Jean Barman, Robin Fisher, Cole Harris, Wade Davis, Hugh Johnston, Patricia Roy, David Stouck, and Graeme Wynn. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. As of September, 2018, Provincial Government Patron: Creative BC

“Only connect.” – E.M. Forster

A page from The Night the Forest Came to Town
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