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Smoky Night Paperback – April 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews 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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 9 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 4
  • Paperback: 40 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (April 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0152018840
  • ISBN-13: 978-0152018849
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 0.1 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #126,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 19, 2000
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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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on August 9, 2004
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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. Troutman on December 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
Eve Bunting wrote "Smoky Night" as a children's book that teaches some very valuable lessons. She wrote about the experiences of the Los Angeles riots from the point of view of a young boy named Daniel.

Daniel and his mother live in Los Angeles when the riots break out. Daniel watches the evil things people are doing outside his window and learns that they do it because they don't like the people who look or sound different from themselves. When a fire threatens his apartment building, Daniel and his mother must evacuate along with the rest of the tenants and go to a shelter for the night. Daniel is frantically searching for his beloved cat and questioning all his neighbors on her location. Finally, a firefighter brings his cat in along with Mrs. Kim's cat. Daniel thinks it is odd that the two of them were found together because he thought they despised each other. Then he realizes they now get along because they finally got to know each other. His realization brings about a revelation among his neighbors who then become friendly with one another, despite their skin tone or language.

This book opens the floor up for introducing children to the Los Angeles riots and a discussion on racial prejudice. It might be possible to have children do some research on the events and compile a classroom portfolio on that time in history. Discussing racial discrimination could also lead to the introduction of the Civil Rights Movement and the heroes of that time. This book is also great for familiarizing students with the qualities of different ethnic groups and how a diverse population is actually beneficial to the nation as a whole.

"Smoky Night" is a terrific book.
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