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Smoky Night (Caldecott Medal Book) Hardcover – March 31, 1994

3.7 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews

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Hardcover, March 31, 1994
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This is a story about cats -- and people -- who couldn't get along until a smoky and fearful night brings them together.

The Los Angeles riots made author Eve Bunting wonder about what riots meant to the children who live through them -- and what we can all learn from such upheavals. She has written more than 100 books for children and young adults, including Night Tree and Summer Wheels, and many deal thoughtfully with difficult issues.

Smoky Night was the winner of the 1995 Caldecott Medal; an American Library Association Notable Children's Book; a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year; and a Parent's Choice Award.

From Publishers Weekly

Bunting addresses urban violence in this thought-provoking and visually exciting picture book inspired by the Los Angeles riots. Although they're neighbors, Daniel's cat and Mrs. Kim's cat don't get along. Nor do Daniel and his mother shop at Mrs. Kim's market. "It's better if we buy from our own people," Daniel's mother says. But when Daniel's apartment building goes up in flames, all of the neighbors (including the cats) learn the value of bridging differences. Bunting does not explicitly connect her message about racism with the riots in her story's background, but her work is thoroughly believable and taut, steering clear of the maudlin or didactic. Diaz's dazzling mixed-media collages superimpose bold acrylic illustrations on photographs of carefully arranged backgrounds that feature a wide array of symbolic materials--from scraps of paper and shards of broken glass to spilled rice and plastic dry-cleaner bags. Interestingly, Diaz doesn't strongly differentiate the presumably Asian American Mrs. Kim from the African American characters--even the artwork here cautions the reader against assumptions about race. Ages 5-up.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 5 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 360L (What's this?)
  • Series: Caldecott Medal Book
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Brace; 1st edition (March 31, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0152699546
  • ISBN-13: 978-0152699543
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 0.3 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,317,905 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
From her home in Pasadena, California, Eve Bunting was close enough to Los Angeles for the riots of the early 90's to have had a big impact on her everyday life during that time. As an author of children's literature who was always thinking of new story lines, she began wondering about the effects the riots had on children in the Los Angeles area and other areas where rioting was taking place. This is the premise of her book Smoky Night. In the story, a young boy and his mother witness a riot on the streets outside their home. Later that evening, their building catches fire, and they go to a shelter until the fire can be extinguished and the building repaired. Through their experience, they learn the importance of getting along with others regardless of their race or background. Bunting does a wonderful job of portraying the craziness and futility of the riots from a child's perspective. The illustrations by David Diaz are also important in furthering the theme of overcoming the adversity of the riots, along with racism, through togetherness. Smoky Night begins with just the narrator and his mother, exhibiting their isolation in the middle of the dangerous riots. The mother in the story becomes the interpreter of the riots for the young boy. He seems to understand how the rioters are feeling, he says, "They look angry. But they look happy, too," but he does not understand why they are smashing and stealing things. His mother explains that they are so angry that they don't care what's right or wrong anymore. The pictures that illustrate the scenes of the rioting streets are wonderful.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Who would have thought a book focusing its attention on race riots would have won the 1995 Caldecott Award? Yet when you think about it... it makes sense. The best children's books are the ones that can explain awful circumstances in a way that kids can understand. Just as the 2004 Caldecott Award winner "The Man Who Walked Between the Towers" tips its hat to September 11th, "Smoky Night" was inspired by the L.A. riots. According to the bookflap, author Even Bunting wondered what riots meant to the children that lived through them. Through this tale, Bunting shows the good that can come out of hard times and struggles.

When the book begins, young Daniel and his mom are watching the people rioting in the street below. Daniel is confused by this, and rightly so. These people are taking an odd joy in what they do. Even as they destroy and steal they act happy with what they're doing. Says Daniel, "I've never heard anybody laugh the way they laugh". That night Daniel is woken up out of his bed by the shaking of his mother. The apartment building is on fire, and the boy cannot locate his pet cat Jasmine. In the panic he's forced to leave without her and stay in a shelter that night with his mom. Mrs. Kim, a neighbor of Daniel, is missing her cat as well. Suddenly a fire fighter enters the building, both cats under his arms. Where once the cats used to fight one another, now there is a bond between them. A similar attempt to make peace with Mrs. Kim ends with pleasing results.

The story doesn't strike you as particularly moving at first. You need to read it and digest it a while to get the full flavor of the text. When I first read through the tale I felt disappointed. A little let down. Then I thought about what I read and went back to it.
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By A Customer on October 3, 1999
Format: Paperback
Bunting takes a bold step by bringing the LA riots to life through the eyes of a child. Though not the ideal bed time story, Smoky night is worth being read. It conveys the message of the effects of urban violence on a child but also tells a beautiful tale of coming together. Daniel and his cat stare out their apartment window at the streets below as people loot the stores. He can not understand why this is happening, how people can look angry and happy at the same time. As Daniel and his mother sleep, a fire breaks out in their building. In the confusion their cat is lost as well as the cat of Mrs. Kim, a Korean shop owner where Daniel's mother never goes. Perhaps a tad cornybut effective is Bunting's use of the two cats coming together to find comfort and security in a time of crisis. The illustrations of David Diaz fill the pages with bright neon colors. His use of multi media to create unique chaotic pictures, complimentary to the story being told.
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Format: Hardcover
Smoky Night tells the story of a young boy and his mother living in one of the neighborhoods where the Los Angeles riots broke out in the early 1990s. As they watch the rioting from their window, the mother discusses candidly the details of what is happening with her son. When their apartment building catches on fire, they must evacuate and move to a shelter for the night. They are forced to interact with their neighbors who are of different races and they learn the importance of focusing on similarities instead of differences. This book gives a good overview of what life was like for a child at this moment in history. I would recommend it for ages 11 through 14. The complex issues the story brings up about prejudice and racism would be appropriate for children in this age group who are beginning to analyze moral issues. The book should be used in a school setting. It would be appropriate to read the book as part of a discussion on racism or race riots. The paintings in the book were made in acrylics on Arches watercolor paper. The backgrounds, which are collages made up of objects related to the story, were created and photographed by the illustrator. The artwork is unique and fits the text perfectly. For example, when in the story the boy views people stealing cereal from the market, the background is a photograph of actual cereal, and when the boy views someone stealing clothes from the dry cleaners, the background is a photograph of clothing on hangers in plastic bags.
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