[Review Copy Courtesy of Wunderkind PR]
Night Shift is a picture book about a young woman gaining ground against the dragons that perniciously pursue her. The author and artist, Debi Gliori, created Night Shift to show her personal experience with depression in hopes it can help the many others going through the same thing. She tells you a bit about what depression was like for her, how the dragon crept up on her, how it made her feel, how she struggled against it, how’d she’d lose but try again, and how she finally got to a point where something shifted for her.
Composed of black and white charcoal illustrations, readers get an intimate look of a young woman struggling against dragons as they gaslight her. The only color in the book is a bright, flaming orange when a dragon blasts her with fire. Dragons are well known in the West for burning everything in their path — and charcoal is the perfect medium to tell this story. What better way to show readers your struggle with dragons – and how you have persisted – than to make spellbinding art with a piece of wood that has been burned for days into something entirely new?
The book cover is a dark blue color and at first glance the illustration looks like a nice decoration. If you only glance at it though, you might completely miss there is a dragon on the cover. Like depression, it can be so subtle at first you don’t even notice it. If you take an even closer look, you’ll notice the i in the word night is a feather. It’s not just for stylistic reasons, it is symbolic and an important part of the story. And do you see the little strokes and dashes surrounding the dragon tails? These strokes are burnt matchsticks – another important symbol.
The story begins with a fog drifting over a young woman while she sleeps, then again while she is drinking a cup of coffee.
We then see a dragon on top of her breathing out a consuming fog.
It invades her and makes her feel awful and hollowed out. Then the dragon plucks feathers out of her leaving a gaping black hole in her center. She continues to decline, but does not appear to directly confront or understand the dragon hanging right over her.
One day she looks in the mirror and doesn’t recognize herself. A dragon has her in its clutches distorting how she sees her reflection. She seeks therapy, but it doesn’t work. The dragon is on top of her during therapy and only feathers come out of her mouth. She tries to draw, hoping if she can’t come up with words, maybe she can create a map and see a way out.
She reflects on platitudes we say to ourselves and others when we’re feeling down. She attempts to light a candle instead of cursing the darkness, only to find herself covered completely in used matches.
She then reveals three night skills she has gained. How she gained certain abilities to get through her own darkness, to get through harsh lessons, and what she held on to.
Remarkably, our heroine never directly confronts or battles the dragon. This is no fairy tale. She has no armor, no sword or weapon of any kind. It’s hard to tell at times if she even knows the dragons are there. There is no great battle. Instead, she runs away; and she can’t even make it very far. And yet, in her forcing herself to run, she is able to gain some ground.
It is while she is on the sand dune and out of breath she finds a feather. Could this be one of the feathers the dragon ripped from inside of her, we wonder? Or are these her words she couldn’t find in the therapist’s office? The story ends with her sitting on the sand dune holding the feather. Where there were dragons are now birds flying and diving into the ocean.
Physically, Night Shift is a small book, but make no mistake – it is very powerful. This book can give people strength and hope. It can teach you how to fight inner dragons.
You can read it when you’re suffering and need to know someone else understands, that someone else has been there and has come out on the other side. That no matter how it may feel right now, it is possible to for things to change. Getting there will require some night skills and doing some horrific night shifts before the night shifts. This is the book you can give to a loved one who is suffering; it will do its best to tell them you see them and are trying to understand. This is the book you give a loved one to try to describe what you’re going through, it will do its best to tell them what’s happening to you.
The more you read and sit with Night Shift the more layers you will find. This book will meet readers where they are so they can take what they may need to try to help the night shift for them, too.
Recommended Ages Older Children/Teens to Adult. Razorbill. September 2017. 32 pages. ISBN: 978-0451481733 Fiction.
Where to Get it:
- Author & Artist: Debi Gliori
Where Obtained: I received a review copy from the publisher. No other compensation was received. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
FTC Disclosures: Some of the links in the post above are Amazon affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase something, I will receive an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. Which goes to fund my family’s picture book habit. It’s a vicious cycle, but we manage. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”