In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Monday, October 22, 2012

We have a contender! I hope.

Dear Annie,

I'll definitely talk about adoption books soon.  I have to sort through my shelves in the store.

I applaud you wanting to avoid the stereotypes of birth order.  As a third child (girl [your mom]-boy-girl [me] family) I'm sensitive to the concept of overlooking the youngest. So take lots of pictures of him!

Last week, when I opened a shipment from Houghton Mifflin, I discovered I'd ordered quite a lot of copies of one particular picture book.  Hmm, I thought, what was I thinking those many months ago when I was ordering new books?  Then I re-read it, and thought, oh dear, I didn't order enough.

Sleep Like a Tiger
by Mary Logue is magic. The illustrations by Pamela Zagarenski are both other-worldly and cozy, formal and wacky.  The book starts with a girl wearing a crown on a scooter.  She does not want to go to sleep, "even though the sun had gone away."  A small tiger is walking out of the picture with a large orange ball on its back.  The girl insists she isn't sleepy.

Parents appear, also wearing crowns, but clearly understanding of her situation:

The parents persuade her to brush teeth and get into bed.
   "Does everything in the world go to sleep?" she asked.
   "Yes," her parents told her.
   "Our dog is sleeping right now, curled up in a ball on the couch, where he's not supposed to be."
Bats, cats, whales, bears, snails  -- parents reassure her all have to sleep (the snails "curl up like a cinnamon roll inside their shell").  The girl adds the tiger to the list.  We see a tiger in a Rousseau-like jungle, with a crown floating above its head.  The parents kiss her goodnight.
   "I'm still not sleepy," she told them.
   "We know," they agreed.
   "You can stay awake all night long."
   They left her door open a crack.
There she is, warm and cozy in her "cocoon of sheets":

She imitates each of the animals her parents talked about, circling like a whale, wriggling like a cat, and of course, like the tiger, she falls asleep.  The last picture in the book is the cover illustration.

It's beautiful and lyrical, with enough bits of humor and oddity to make it special.

As you know, I'm terrible at predicting winners of the big children's book awards.  But I think, I hope, I want this one to be a contender for the Caldecott medal for illustration.    It's so beautiful and odd, yet also wonderfully kid-friendly.  It makes me happy to read it.




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