Tuesday, March 20, 2018


Although it is not a finalist in the middle grades category, Nightlights is another stand-out book I read while judging for the Excellence in Graphic Literature Awards. It tells the story of a young girl named Sandy who every night when she goes to sleep  travels to incredible worlds full of strange and wonderful creatures and each day while she is awake depicts those worlds and creatures in her artwork. These activities make her an outlier in her school. She does not have many friends and gets picked on frequently. The nuns who teach her do not appreciate her spacing out and staring out windows. Nor do they like that she is constantly doodling in her notebooks instead of taking notes or doing schoolwork.
All of this changes one day when she meets the new girl in school, Morfie, who loves her drawings and wants nothing more than to see them all. Soon afterward, however, Sandy begins to wonder if Morfie is even real, and things take a pretty dark turn.

This book tackles multiple themes, chiefly how creativity and imagination work as well as how people socialize and are socialized. I feel the story is surprisingly complex for what is a relatively brief text, and the artwork is exquisite. I had never seen the work of this book's creator Lorena Alvarez before, and I have to say I am very impressed by it. Her characters are vibrant, expressive, and relatable, and she is adept at creating fantasy scenes that are simultaneously gorgeous, breath-taking, and terrifying. I loved going to this site here where I could look at her previous and current projects. Go check out her fabulous artwork! Also, for more about her work and inspirations for Nightlights, check out this interview (but be aware that it does contain spoilers).

All of the reviews I have read of this book have been glowing. In a starred review Publishers Weekly called it "a deliciously hair-raising story that thoughtfully explores themes of isolation, creativity, and how social pressures can encroach on individuality." April Spisak wrote that "Alvarez has achieved something special and unforgettable with her first authorial outing." In a starred review from School Library Journal Abby Bussen opined that "Alvarez’s artwork is gorgeous, alternating between traditional panels and, in the dream sequences, vibrant spreads that spill from page to page with grace and fluidity."

Nightlights was published by NoBrow Press, and they offer a preview and more information about it here.

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