How do you explain to a child that the sun can suddenly be blocked out of view in the middle of the day?
This is part of what Farah sets out to do with the characters Mr Night and the Sun. Night first appears in this small African village during a solar eclipse. With his dark skin, big blue eyes, and his hat full of stars. Nobody knew where he had come from, but they had become used to his absence and had all but forgotten him.
As Night falls on the village, its people and wise elders start to wonder about the stars, the night and life in general. They let their imaginations run wild, contemplating the many things that humans had been able to discover and make use of, even in the dark of the night.
Us readers, both children and adults, are invited by Farah to think as well. Her comparisons are elaborate, as she creates lively characters from the Night, the Stars and the Sun, and animates them so that they become people who interact, people with parents, humor and personal motives. She weaves surprisingly easy explanations of how night travels the earth’s hemisphere and how fire is conjured. Farah expertly makes the point that questions are the only means of bringing about answers, encouraging us to never stop asking.
She is silent on some details; who Night’s mother is, where the moon is, or how the villagers heard the laughs of celestial bodies if they were speaking in a ‘silent’ language. She also switches from Night’s narrative to the villagers’ conversation without warning, forcing her readers into an alertness and a surrender to the inherent incompleteness of every story, and the artifice of closed narratives.
In addition of this taste of the philosophical, the book does what it is meant to. It explains large concepts of nature to children who are always fascinated by the daily alternation between light and dark, day and night, providing thought-provoking answers to everyday questions and encouraging children to never stop asking them.
Review by Lama Tawakkol
Mr Night and the Sun
Author: Amal Farah
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