Title: Smoky Night
Author: Eve Bunting
Illustrator/Photographer: David Diaz
Publisher and Year: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1994
Number of Pages: 28
Tags/Themes: Colleen Swanson, Fine Arts, Social Science, Caldecott Medal, Diversity, Culture, Riots, Friendship, Animals, 4-5, 6-8
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Historical Fiction
Smoky Night tells the story of Daniel and his mother during one night amidst the Los Angles riots. Daniel sees the riots happening the streets below and tries to understand what the people are doing and more importantly why. That night their apartment building catches fire and Daniel is forced to flee the building without his cat. Daniel, his mother, and the other apartment tenets go to the local shelter to rest and eat. Mrs. Kim, an Asian neighbor, also goes to shelter after the fire. Daniel and his mother do not get along with Mrs. Kim because their cats fight often and due to the fact that they are different nationalities. Eventually a firefighter comes to the shelter with Daniel and Mrs. Kim’s cats in hand. He tells them the cats survived by staying together in the building. Daniel then says maybe they are good friends now because they finally got to know each other. This profound statement causes Daniel’s mom to introduce herself to Mrs. Kim and start to build a friendship regardless of her race.
In this text it is quite apparent that Daniel and his mother do not have much power in their current situation. The people who are rioting in the streets and setting buildings on fire have control throughout this story. Along with power, the text also discusses the topic of race relations through the eyes of a young boy. Daniel and his mother do not interact with Mrs. Kim because she is Asian and they are Hispanic. During this volatile time in Los Angles there were growing tensions among the races and thus riots emerged. It is not until the end of the story with the help of two little cats that Daniel and his mother see that race does not matter and that you cannot judge someone based on their nationality, culture, language, or appearance. The text does not specifically go in depth into either Mrs. Kim or Daniel’s cultures but rather the relations between the two.
Smoky Night shares the beautiful message that race does not matter through the text as well as the illustrations in the book. The image son each page are combinations of abstract paintings and intricate collages. This mix causes the reader to view the overall scene in the paintings and look at the moment’s specific textures in the collage background. The colors in the paintings are darker and subdued while the collages are intricate and bright. This contrast is a very interesting palette for readers to take in on each page.