The Midnight Club

h1 August 24th, 2021 by jules


Shane Goth’s The Midnight Club (Owlkids, October 2021) captures the thrills of children sneaking around a house at night when the adults are sleeping — a time when, somehow, the house they live in appears different, even magical. This is Shane’s first picture book (he also notes in the book’s jacket bio that he founded the Midnight Club at age four), and it was illustrated by Yong Ling Kang, who grew up in Singapore and now makes her home in Toronto.

Milly lays awake at night, waiting. Her family — including her big sister, Becca — sleep. But she wakes Becca at midnight, because it’s time for the Midnight Club. The girls even give each other the secret signal, pictured above. They sneak around the house, sit in Dad’s chair (not normally allowed), snack on jelly beans, and play with the shadows that hit the wall from the streetlight outside. When their cat, Oliver (the President, no less, of the Midnight Club) slinks in from outside, they all settle in for the night.

This isn’t the first picture book about the joys of children exploring a home at night — remember the glorious Hannah’s Night? — but this one stands out for the way Goth spins a phrase. (He has previously written short fiction.) “Darkness tingled on Milly’s skin,” we read. “She’d never been up so late.” Later, we read: “Milly had never been downstairs in the middle of the night. The walls were blue with moonlight. It looked like their own secret planet.” These sorts of nuanced observations, ones that give personality and life to each character, fill the tale.

Also, the rules of the Midnight Club are delightfully specific. For instance, when the shadows from the moonlight “crisscross” the hallway floor, one must tiptoe over each one. Breathlessly, each girl does so.

Kang’s watercolors conjure up a cozy, safe home, the palette dominated by cool midnight moonlight blues. She has a relaxed line, and nearly every spread is a full-bleed one so that we can take in every detail of the adventure.

Such nighttime adventures may be exhilirating for children, but when they get back into bed — in this case, both girls snuggled together in one bed, Milly still slightly awake with a smile on her face, and President Oliver sleeping on their covers — they feel a satisfying sense of security for having survived the gripping, slightly scary exploration (and for having that safe bed to slide back into). In this illustration, Kang lets the moonlight (the girls sleep by a window), or maybe it’s even a rising sun, cover the girls in a warm, sunny yellow.

Here are some spreads. …


“Shadows crisscrossed the hall. ‘Tiptoe over each one,’ Becca whispered.
Milly gulped. ‘I can’t touch any?’ ‘It’s a rule of the Midnight Club.'”

(Click spread to enlarge)



(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


“Milly peeked out and spotted a dark shape on the wall.
A big head and sharp teeth. ‘A monster!'”

(Click spread to enlarge)


“‘It’s just the streetlight making shadows,’ Becca said. They held things up in the light and created new monsters. ‘This one’s Scarf-enstein.’ ‘Here’s Count Plant-ula.’
They giggled and made their monsters dance.”

(Click spread to enlarge)


(Click cover to enlarge)


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THE MIDNIGHT CLUB. Text © 2021 Shane Smith. Illustrations © 2021 Yong Ling Kang. Illustrations reproduced by permission of Owlkids Books, Toronto.

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