Ray's children's book, SWITCH ON THE NIGHT, is one of my favorites. As someone who recalls being scared of the dark as a very young child (which was around the time the book was first published), I can only wish my parents had seen it at a bookstore and bought it for me to calm my fears. As for the book itself, not only does it tell a wonderful story for youngsters, but the book's illustrations...by Madeline Gekiere in the very rare 1955 first edition and by the incomparable Leo and Diane Dillon in the 1993 re-issue...match the story wonderfully.
I recall attending a science fiction convention in St. Louis in 1996 at which Ray was one of the guests of honor. The person in front of me asked Ray to autograph his copy of SWITCH ON THE NIGHT and commented, "Ray, I sure wish you would write more children's books." Ray replied, most sincerely, "But all of my books are children's books." I personally think what Ray meant is that his books are meant to be enjoyed by "kids" of all ages, whether they are truly young or just young-at-heart, and he was certainly right!
Both "Ahmed" and "The Halloween Tree" are about 4th-5th grade reading level while "Switch on the Night" is as simple as first grade level. His collections for young people, "R is for Rocket" and "S is for Space" are about 7th-8th grade level.
Posts: 7260 | Location: Dayton, Washington, USA | Registered: 03 December 2001
There is a very fine illustrated video of Ray's wonderful children's story, SWITCH ON THE NIGHT, available on Vimeo. It can be accessed by clicking on the link below. The illustrations in the video were done by Argentine artist Juan Marchesi, who illustrated the Spanish language edition of the book, titled "La niña que iluminó la noche", (Ediciones La Flor, Buenos Aires, 1974).
Thinking more about Ray's children's book SWITCH ON THE NIGHT led me to wonder about Madeleine Gekiere, the artist who illustrated the wonderful (and scarce) 1955 first edition. I did some on-line research and discovered that Ms. Gekiere had committed suicide in 2014 (varying news accounts put her age at the time of her death at either 95 or 96). Apparently, she was in ill health, and the quality of her life had deteriorated greatly. The link below will take you to a news article about her passing. That article includes quotes from an interview with Ms. Gekiere in which she discussed her collaboration with Ray Bradbury, which had been a very happy experience for her. The article states: "Gekiere illustrated Ray Bradbury’s 1955 novel 'Switch on the Night.' She never met Bradbury, but said she enjoyed working with him. 'I never got any royalties on my other books,' Gekiere told a children’s-book blogger in 2012. 'But Ray Bradbury, no problem, he shared the profits . . . Just a very nice man.' Bradbury even sent her an inscribed first edition of 'Fahrenheit 451' that said, 'For Madeleine Gekiere — with the admiration and thanks of her collaborator.'