What lurks inside the dark blue jar? That’s what the boy narrating Meatball and Hedge’s picture book The Dark Blue Jar wants to know.
The boy has found the jar in a cupboard and is intrigued by the sparkling lights he sees inside. As he debates whether to open the jar or not, he holds it up to a lamp, drops it on the floor, and considers returning it to the shelf, all the while wondering what could be inside. Finally, curiosity wins out and he opens the jar to find a bunch of fireflies, who fly out into the night.
“Meatball and Hedge” (Deborah Lomax-Reid, writer, and Ed Hedgepeth, artist) make a good team in this, their second book for children. The story is told in rhyme, and most of the time it flows smoothly, though there are occasional awkward verses when the standard syntax is reversed to fit the rhyme scheme. Sometimes, end words are repeated in a way that seems rather lazy: “I thought, ‘I’ll be a hero./My mom will hold me so./They’ll put my name in newsprint./Yeah!!!…. I’ll be a big hero!’”
But a spirit of fun and whimsy carries the book through its rough patches. Hedgepeth’s art is excellent, replete with detail and visual jokes, such as an easel with paint dripping onto the floor from recently used brushes, or a cat seen playing with a (computer) mouse.
It’s a shame that the story ends on an awkward note visually. As the lightning bugs fly outside, there’s a glimpse of a dinosaur out on the lawn and an apparent alien invasion in progress; neither are explained in the text. Instead of ending on a quiet note about curiosity and the wonder of nature, the fireflies are literally overshadowed by a massive dinosaur and an alien ship unloading its passengers.
Despite that strangeness, The Dark Blue Jar is a charming book overall that many children will enjoy.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.