Tuesday, 20 October 2015

The Ride-by-Nights by Walter de la Mare and illustrated by CarolinaRabei

The Ride-by-Nights is a short narrative poem by the classic author, Walter de la Mare. It describes the journey taken by group of witches as they have fun flying through the night sky, making it a perfect read for Halloween.

Not only are we told about their antics as they 'whoop and flutter' and the speed at which they fly but de la Mare also tracks their journey by making references to various constellations they pass on the way before returning home.

 It is written in rhyming couplets with a rapidly moving rhythm. The meaning of the poem is enhanced using a range of poetic devices such as the playful and mischievous noises the witches make as they 'twitter and tweet' as they fly. 

Carolina Rabei's illustrations in this picture book version of the poem offer a rich and charming parallel tale of a group of young children as they go trick or treating on Halloween. We first encounter the children as they decorate the house in preparation for the festivities. Flying high above them are the witches and in the distance is a small red fox.

On the next two page spread, we move in closer to the children's cottage and see them in their Halloween costumes as they prepare to journey into the village for their evening of fun. As they journey towards the village we are treated to pictorial representations of the mischievous and playful actions of the witches. Throughout the story, the children are totally unaware of the witches and the fox. The fox, though, is aware and watches the activities of both the children and the witches from a safe distance.

The images work alongside the written text resulting in a beautifully multi-modal text that has so much to spot and discuss. The wordless images on a number of the pages could be used as a stimulus for narrative writing. As the story itself is already there in the pictures, children can focus on developing their skills of scene setting and characterisation. 

Rabei uses a limited colour palette for her illustrations, namely different shades of purple, which are often associated with magic. The scenes are made more magical by the bright twinkling stars in the sky, especially those which form the Milky Way. The warm yellow glow of the lights from the windows contrasts sharply with the cold night sky. Likewise, the red of the witches' hair, the little girl's stockings, the older girl's outfit, the pumpkins and the front door provides a hint of danger but one which is not menacing.

The result is an enchanting picture book which can be shared over and over again by children of all ages.

Publisher: Faber & Faber
Date of Publication: 2015
ISBN: 978-0-571-32422-4


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