The baby animals in the Black Mushroom Forest are afraid of the dark and their mothers are desperate for help. When a special elephant arrives with a unique talent—he can eat the dark night—they see a glimmer of hope. Can he help the baby animals overcome their nighttime fears? As he travels around the forest, the elephant eats the night’s darkness, turning everything as bright as day. As a result, the children play all day and night, not knowing when it’s time for bed. Everyone is exhausted, including the mothers. They beg the elephant to return the dark nights. When he does, the children discover the night is needed and not as scary as they once thought.
Baby animals learn to overcome their nighttime fears.
Whenever night falls in the Black Mushroom Forest, all the baby animals cry out and cower in fear. One day, an elephant arrives at the forest. Awu “[isn’t] a typical elephant” or, indeed, a typical forest creature. Unlike the other animals, Awu looks forward to the nighttime, when he can “open his mouth big and wide and swallow the dark nights.” Seeking a way to allay the children’s fears, Bear Cub’s mother enlists Awu’s help. One by one, Awu visits the children of the forest and eats away the dark. Sun shining, “they danced and cheered”—but quickly realize the trouble when it is “always bright as day.” With yawns and exhaustion comes an appreciation for balance and an understanding of the promise of a new day. Bold typographic design sets dialogue and onomatopoeic words apart on the page from the main narrative. Occasionally, the text design mimics the text—a sentence curls in on itself just like “Baby Porcupine [who] would cling to his mother’s side and shrink into a little ball.” Recurring swirls and curves visually draw readers’ eyes, and details such as constellationlike diagrams peppered throughout Li’s artwork add to the whimsy of Bai’s bedtime story.