Have you ever wondered what happens at the fair after everyone goes home for the night? You can find out in The Midnight Fair, written by Gideon Sterer and illustrated by Mariachiara Di Giorgio (Candlewick Press 2020).
Somewhere in the country, a fairground opens. From the shadows in the nearby woods, the wild animals watch the people having a good time. When all the people go home, the woodland creatures venture out and open up the midway for a magical night of rides and carnival games. And don’t forget the popcorn, cotton candy, and hot dogs! Bears, deer, racoons, squirrels, and rabbits alike, all come together for one enchanting night of amusement and fun.
As dawn appears on the horizon, Owl warns everyone that it’s time for the Midnight Fair to close because the people will be returning soon. So the animals thoughtfully clean up the grounds and fade back into the shadows with their carnival prizes, tasty treats, and fun-filled memories they will never forget. And when the carnival man arrives in the light of dawn, he’s not quite sure what to make of the cash jars filled with nuts, berries, and other treasures from the forest.
One of my favorite stories within the story is about Wolf. Wolf wins a goldfish at the ring toss game. He carries the goldfish very carefully, especially while riding the carousal. And when the night is over, Wolf carries the goldfish to the edge of the lake, where he releases it into the water. This is just one of the many endearing stories you can follow in this charming picture book.
Without any words, the illustrations capture the magic and excitement of a night on the midway. And because the pictures tell the stories, this is an engaging book for all ages. Whether relishing the beautiful artwork or letting your imagination add words to the stories, this picture book is a delight to read over and over again. There are details to be found every time you open this picture book!
As an aside, the term “midway” comes from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair (known at the time as the World’s Columbian Exposition), which included a one-mile narrow strip of land named the Midway Plaisance that was utilized specifically for entertainment and food.
When I learned about The Midnight Fair, I was unfamiliar with either the author or the illustrator. It turns out that Gideon Sterer grew up in the woods of upstate New York where his parents owned a small zoo. It’s easy to see that his life experiences helped him appreciate the wonders of nature and a good story. His latest picture books include It Began with Lemonade (Dial Books 2021), illustrated by Lian Cho, and The Christmas Owl (Based on the True Story of a Little Owl Named Rockefeller) (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 2021), written with Ellen Kalish (the caretaker of the real owl found inside the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree) and illustrated by Ramona Kaulitzki. You can get a signed copy of The Christmas Owl at Books of Wonder.
Speaking of wonder, Mariachiara Di Giorgio, who studied in Rome and Paris, really brings Gideon Sterer’s The Midnight Fair to life, capturing the beauty and adventure of the woodland animals enjoying a night at the fair. These fantastical illustrations are done with a blend of watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil, making me want to join these fun-loving animals every night at the fair. Be sure to get your ticket punched!