Night in the Barn

by Faye Gibbons

ISBN 0-688-13326-6 (Trade edition)
ISBN 0-688-13327-4 (Library edition)

1995 Published by Morrow Junior Books, New York
Sesame Street Parents' Guide Sept. 1, 1995
Named one of the Best Children's Books of 1995
Named one of Smithsonian's (magazine) Notable Books for Children, 1995


It's darker than dark the night Willie dares, "Bet you're afraid to spend the night in the barn," and Mike and Julius and Dan say, "Not me." It's pretty dark in the barn too! But the flashlight turns the ghosts into stacks of lumber and the monsters into pieces of furniture, so everything's just fine. Then Willie says, "Lights out"... and something skitters across the floor... something gives a spooky tap-tap-tap... and something comes sniffling and snorting and shuffling toward them in the loft...

Master storyteller Faye Gibbons and award-winning illustrator Erick Ingraham capture all the shivery fun in this rollicking adventure yarn about a camp-out in a darker-than-dark barn.


"Bet you're afraid to spend the night in the barn," challenges a boy to his younger brother and two visiting cousins. Not them, they retort, though the younger brother's stutters reveal his hesitation. It's one dark barn, full of shrouded drop cloths that appear ghoulish in the gloomy light. Creaks and groans keep the boys alert, and the older brother gives his sibling a fair dose of grief, testing him, looking for weakness. By the time the sleeping bags are unfurled, the night sounds have spooked all. When the family dog galumphs into the picture, they are happy to have so stalwart a companion among them.

Gibbons (King Shoes & Clown Pockets, 1989) composes a realistic story of young boys strutting their stuff, parading their courage, provoking but not tormenting one another. Ingraham (Mary Calhoun's Henry the Sailor Cat, 1994, etc.) provides varnished watercolors of closely observed nightscapes----skeletal trees stark against a dusky sky only a full moon can bring to effect, moving shadows, terrifying dark corners----with a delicacy of line that brings to mind the works of the Wyeth family. (Picture book. 5+)

BOOKLIST September 1, 1995
Ages 3-6. "The shadows were deep and the wind was cold," and a small boy is scared when he goes with his big brother and their two city cousins to spend the night in the barn. Gibbons' words are physically immediate and lovely ("the moon was a here-again, gone-again eye"), and Ingraham's varnished watercolors capture the glimmering, cold fall night and the shadowy barn, where dark monsters leer and loom as the flashlight begins to dim and a shivery, whiffing, snorting creature comes nearer and nearer. It's an archetypal story---the delicious fear of being together on a night adventure close to home----and this picture book makes it both scary and snug. ----Hazel Rochman

HORN BOOK November/December Musings by Robert D. Hale (of Westwinds Bookshop in Duxbury MA, former president of ABA, and author)
Adults write, illustrate, edit, publish, and sell children's books, so it is inevitable that some will be more appealing to adults than to children. Aware of that, I tested my list of favorites on grandchildren and on several young adults. The following have now become their current "favorites" as well. ..... Intense response to Night in the Barn was gratifying. Children still enjoy being scared by strange noises and the monstrous shapes everyday things can assume in the dark. Faye Gibbons has four boys deciding to sleep in the barn without the dog because he'll eat their stash of food. It's frightening enough with the flashlight on, but once it rolls down the stairs and the snuffling and shuffling begins, terror takes over. Erick Ingraham's pictures add to the chills and thrills.....

Horn Book January/February 1996
Illustrated by Erick Ingraham. Spooky shapes and night noises set the mood in this simple, realistic story of four boys who decide to sleep in the barn on a darker than dark, cold autumn night. The occasion is a visit from city cousins, and there's a challenge thrown by the older of the two farm brothers: "Bet your afraid to spend the night in the barn." The details of the boy's spooky sleepover, including the final rolling away of the flickering flashlight, are delectable and if the climactic entrance of a snuffling intruder ends predictably, the comfort is well earned.. Economical text and dark paintings capture the setting and the experience of the boys to perfection. The rectangular pages are fully used, sometimes in facing scenes and other times in double-page spreads in which dim light blends effectively into the dark where suggested faces brood in the murky recesses.The beautifully taut demonstration of universal anxiety in facing the night will strike empathy and deliver satisfaction to readers of all ages. M. A. B.

SLJ January 1996
Gr. 1-4 The adventure begins with four boys, a dare: "Bet you're afraid to spend the night in the barn." Soon only a flashlight shields the children from "Ghosts and monsters... ready to lunge and pounce." Whether readers have experienced a similar situation---perhaps in a backyard tent setting---or not, most will relish the gently building tension and resolution as the realistic story develops. Gibbons's prose, finely controlled in the tradition of good storytelling, demands to be read aloud. The varnished watercolor illustrations are marvelously dark and engaging, capturing the mood. Ingraham uses the full sweep of the pages, interesting perspectives, and visual surprises to pull readers on with everwidening and searching eyes. This is a tale that will spin children off into storytelling sessions of their own. It's fun and scary and rates a place on most library shelves.----Lee Bock, Brown County Public Libraries, Green Bay, WI

Smithsonian Magazine 1995
Nestled in the hay, keeping shadows at bay, four boys bed down for a sleepover on an autumn night and"darker than dark." Spooky as a swooping owl and sweetly reassuring.
from Smithsonian's Notable Books for Children by Kathleen Burke Originally published in November 1995 Smithsonian Magazine ©

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