“Hand-drawn illustrations create a playful story about fixing and reusing that gets a bit too messy for some readers.”
On a tidy street full of tidy homes, Mr. McDuff is different. What others call junk he considers useful, and his front yard is so full of salvaged materials that it spills over the front gate onto the sidewalk. Mo, a young neighborhood boy, is the only person who isn’t bothered by McDuff’s collection, and he often stops to visit. When Mo crashes his bike and leaves it in a broken heap, McDuff repairs it and even makes a few improvements by adding “streamers, a bell and a new basket as well.” Word spreads of McDuff’s resourcefulness and the usefulness of his materials, and soon everyone is following his lead “fixing, mending and creating new things from old things, all better than new.” Rand’s freehand ink drawings are charming and fun (especially the clothing textures—tweed suits, plaid pants, argyle sweaters, and more!), and with her limited color palette of blue and gold, create a fitting vintage vibe to the story. The story flows smoothly with just a dash of rhymes throughout (”knotted and glued, hammered and screwed,” “Mr. McDuff and his house full of stuff.”) Rand’s illustrations convincingly convey the extent of McDuff’s collection: there is dryer vent tubing, a bed frame, and nails, bolts, and nuts strewn across the ground, with more piles of stuff showing through the windows. Unfortunately, resourcefulness, fixing, and repurposing get conflated with unkempt clutter, as in the end the whole street is strewn with debris.
After graduating from the London College of Communication in 2008, Emily Rand worked in children’s art education in museums and schools. In the Darkness of the Night is Rand’s second book with Tate Publishing, following A Dog Day. She lives in East London.
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