MAMA, DON'T GO OUT TONIGHT

Sally Gardner, Author, Sally Gardner, Illustrator
Sally Gardner, Author, Sally Gardner, Illustrator . Bloomsbury $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-58234-790-5
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Mama has a big night out and she's as gussied up as Cinderella (she's even accessorized her poufy gown with a tiara). But her little daughter doesn't like the idea one bit. "Why can't I come with you?" she asks. "Because it's nighttime and nighttime is grown-up time," Mama replies. Unassuaged, the girl voices her fears about separation via fantasy situations that could arise ("Mama, you might get kidnapped by pirates"; "The cat could have kittens"). Each fantasy dominates a spread, but Gardner (The Book of Princesses) cleverly keeps a sliver of the picture firmly anchored in real life, and she sensibly refrains from showing Mama waffling. Once Mama arrives at her fancy dress ball (where a tuxedoed date awaits), the spreads are split horizontally by festive ribbons, and readers can follow both Mama's grown-up fun and the girl's pretend play with her baby-sitter. Gardner may stretch the perimeter of most readers' reality in making the night out so extravagant (cocktails and dancing are plausible, but a ride home on an elephant?), yet the choice to make the event fairy tale-like neatly avoids grittier issues surrounding a single parent's social life. This tale keeps the mood light while firmly conveying that mamas deserve the chance to trip the light fantastic—and that their children can happily survive. Ages 4-8. (Nov.)

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