Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, December 10, 2012

Wide Awake

Our bodies are wired to be active during the daylight and desirous of sleep as nightfall approaches.  Of course, most little guys and gals will have nights when they can truthfully say sleep is the last thing on their minds.  They have a multitude of other activities they would rather be doing; anything but sleep.

Thankfully there are caregivers, parents, who can remember those nights as a child feeling energized, wide awake and ready to go.  Those memories fuel their wisdom.  Sleep Like A Tiger (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, October 23, 2012), a first picture book written by Mary Logue with illustrations by Caldecott Honor winner, Pamela Zagarenski, is like watching treasured moments from a bedtime ritual.

Once there was a little girl who didn't want to go to sleep even though the sun had gone away.

She tells each of her parents.  While they acknowledge her feelings, they still ask her to put on her pajamas.  Hmmm....she's still not sleepy.  Would she please wash her face and brush her teeth?

Next she gets into bed, even thought she's not the slightest bit tired.  But there's something about lying there that begins a kind of magic.  It starts with a single question to her parents.

Their first answers stay within their home; how and where the dog and cat sleep.  Their little girl's mind is wandering and wondering now.  She wants to know about bats, whales, snails, and bears until she knows something, prompting her parents to ask a question.

The quiet conversation completed, her curiosity satisfied, the little girl informs her parents she is very much awake.  This they understand; kissing her good night, turning out the light, pulling the door nearly but not quite closed.  Now the mind meanders, calling to sleep.

Each of those creatures visited during their nighttime chat along with their sleep habits are one by one being relived thoughtfully.  What they do, she mirrors.  At last to stay strong, she goes to sleep...like a tiger.

Mary Logue creates a soothing sense of peace, weaving a spell, much like a wizard with words.  She takes readers outside the girl's bedroom into the intimate, immediate space of the sleeping animal with detailed images.  A rhythm is in place between the questions, replies and the replications of those answers.  Here is an example.

"Tiny snails?" she asked.
"They curl up like a cinnamon roll inside their shell."

When first looking at the jacket and cover of this title it's as if you've wandered into a dream. You see a girl and tiger curled together in sleep; she with a stuffed tiger in her arms and the tiger's paw on a doll, both wearing crowns.  The opening and closing endpapers, each different, are a whimsical continuation of the dream, a reflection of the story within.

Mixed media paintings on wood with computer illustration formed by the hand of artist Pamela Zagarenski are an open invitation to this tale.  Richly textured, patterned and colored each picture is a collage of lightness, gentle emotions and most of all...love.  Exquisite details await discovery; the little girl's drawings on her bedroom wall, the mother holding a copy of The Little Prince to read at bedtime, a tiny fox passing by the barn, a tea pot with cups in the bear's den with an red alarm clock set to spring.

We readers know books with the flawless combination of words and illustrations can take us to places we can not find on a map; time standing still while we are there.  Sleep Like A Tiger written by Mary Logue and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski is one of those special books, a gift bestowed on those who read it alone or when it is shared; especially when it is shared.  Even after several readings I continue to be amazed at both the narrative and the pictures, marveling at the power of each to delight and soothe.

Please follow the links to the author's and illustrator's websites embedded in their names.  Pamela Zagarenski has been interviewed at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  This is a video I discovered on YouTube highlighting more illustrations from the book.


  1. Gorgeous, put to the top of my lists! Thank you!

    1. You're welcome. Without a doubt it is a visual and verbal treasure.