Not quite a picture book and not quite a graphic novel, The Night Bookmobile, like its plot, is gloriously subversive in terms of both genre and plot.
In this short tale we have Alexandra, a woman who strolls Chicago streets during the early, early morning. She happens across a night bookmobile in the shape of a Winnebago. She is invited in, and, upon studying the collection, realizes she’s read every single copy within the vehicle. What she learns next surprises her and influences her for the rest of her life, a life she spends searching not only for the night bookmobile, but for its elusive home Library.
And just when the reader begins to feel comfortable, the story takes quite a turn and moves in a totally unexpected direction. I will not even hint at a spoiler, but I did not suspect the last third of the story whatsoever.
So, as you can see, I very much enjoyed the actual story. At times it reads like prose, at other times it reads similar to a comic strip. Niffenegger is not only a talented writer, but she’s a gifted artist as well. The book’s art, like it’s plot, is unorthodox yet quite appealing. Though the lines are simple, the picture are detailed with pleasant colors and fine perspective. I particularly enjoy Niffenegger’s faces. She’s excellent at subtle expressions.
The best of writing and the best of art should always discomfort us, surprise us, and stimulate our thoughts. The Night Bookmobile is admirable in that it does all three both concisely and poignantly.