Picture Book Snob
The warming glow of a gorgeous book
Ella's Night Lights by Lucy Fleming
"Nestled in a little nook of an old oak tree, lived a teeny tiny girl. Her name was Ella."
Ella's Night Lights is a gorgeous book bursting with the bright light and warm glow cast by kindness and compassion for others. Dedicated to "every single person who makes the world a lighter place," something that this special story also does. Ella's Night Lights is a tender, uplifting tale with a delightful, magical quality and exquisite illustrations.
Ella has soft, feathery wings but they're so delicate and fine that she must protect them from the sun's harsh light. Her wings are similar to those of a moth and, just like that creature, Ella is attracted to everything that glimmers. Ella chases after "twinkling starlight, flickering lamplight and even little pebbles that reflected the light of the moon." She collects this light and shares it with anyone who needs help finding their way in the dark. Ella assists those who are frightened and alone: "There was always someone who needed a bit of light."
Although Ella always returns to her shady home before morning to keep her wings safe, she longs to see the sun rise. When her forest friends collaborate on a plan to repay the kindness she has shown them, Ella's dreams finally come true. Ella doesn't expect anything in return for her generosity and selfless acts, but it's fantastic to see it rewarded in such a spectacular way.
It's impossible to describe this book and do it justice - it really needs to be seen. The images are integral to the text. Together they create a moving and memorable experience, with a gentle and soothing quality - the perfect bedtime read. The words Ella repeats throughout the story are like a lullaby: "Here's some bright light, here's a night light, a little ray to calm your fright." The colours of the night skies and the sunrises are especially striking, and Ella's oak tree nook is one of the cosiest homes I've ever seen depicted in a children's book. Although it's not explicitly festive and could be enjoyed at any time of the year, the snow scenes make this ideal for building excitement in the lead up to Christmas, and a fabulous gift. Although the lack of diversity in children's books at the moment is problematic, there are only two human characters seen in this story and one is a girl of black, Asian or minority ethnicity.
The forest setting, adorable animals and intricate illustrations, recall favourites from my own childhood, such as Mark and Michelle in the Forest, Brambly Hedge and Beatrix Potter. I know I would have loved this when I was younger, and would have spent hours studying the images. When I read it to my own kids (aged three and five), they are just as captivated by the pictures as they are by the text and enjoy discussing all the details on each page.
Lucy Fleming has worked on approximately thirty books for children of all ages, but this is her first credit as author as well as illustrator. It's a stunning debut and hopefully many more stories written by Lucy will follow - I'd love to see further adventures of Ella and her friends. Ella's Night Lights is a wonderful story that will add a sparkle to even the dullest of days.
Read an interview with author and illustrator Lucy Fleming on the creative process behind this book
Title: Ella's Night Lights
Author & Illustrator: Lucy Fleming
Publisher: Walker Books
Publication Date: 5th November 2020