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Blixtslukaren Jonatan Brännström, Blixtslukaren (The Lightning Gobbler)

Natur och Kultur,  2012.

Reviewed by Charlotte Berry in SBR 2012:2

Illustrated by Joanna Hellgren

A fear of the dark is something with which everyone can identify, young or old, parent or child. This picture book takes this issue head on, in a fantastical tale about two children and their adventures at bedtime during a severe thunderstorm. Narrated from the perspective of the younger sibling, it tells of how a patient elder brother attempts to put a little boy to bed and to sleep.But the younger brother manages to delay the lights going out by spinning an elaborate tale of diversion and adventure, in which the elder brother becomes equally immersed.

The hippopotamuses under the mattress are afraid of the dark and cannot sleep when the lights are switched off; a lightning vacuum cleaner (‘blixtslukaren’) is invented to eat up thunder and lightning clouds and fear of the dark. With the press of a magic button, a hole in the roof appears which lets the rain in and floods the whole house, auntie Johansson’s flat downstairs. Big brother’s rescue mission goes wrong when his abseiling rope turns into a serpent and the younger brother comes to the rescue with his sword, only for the serpent to take refuge in his own bed. It eventually disappears up and outwards through the hole in the ceiling, the flood is diverted the same way using the lightning gobbler and bedtime calm is restored.

This book is Brännström’s first. It is lushly illustrated in vibrant primary colours on a black background by Hellgren, who is already established as a prizewinning children’s book illustrator and comic book artist. With its direct but sensitive treatment of themes such as sibling relationships, bravery and fear, and the struggle of good against evil, this picture book for three to six year olds is a welcome addition to any child’s bookshelf but to their parents’ coffee table as well.

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