Quote of the Month

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

Monday, July 15, 2013

Bedtime Bedlam

Sleep is a tricky thing; evading you when you crave it, pouncing on you without mercy when you really want to stay awake.  There is nothing worse than tossing and turning for hours or waking up suddenly to find the lights on and an open book in your hand.  There are times when it seems as if inside and outside noises or a particular person are conspiring to make sure a good night's sleep is not in your future.

If you've ever shared a bedroom with a sibling growing up, then you are well aware of the problems they can cause when it comes to falling asleep. The chatter, giggles, snorts, noises with a distinct animal quality, not to mention talking in their sleep or snoring, will chase away any chance you have of sweet dreams.  Debut author Heather Long and her husband Ethan Long (Stick Dog, Up! Tall! and High! (but not necessarily in that order), Chamelia) have combined their talents and shared experiences to bring readers the hilarity of  Max & Milo Go to Sleep! (Aladdin, a imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division).

Good night, Max.
Good night, Milo.

What begins as a simple end-of-the-day salutation is the prelude to a series of laugh-out-loud conversational exchanges between the beaver brothers.  Milo is clearly exhausted, asleep on his feet.  Max is wide awake and ready to take on the world.

After about two seconds Max loudly proclaims to Milo his inability to sleep.  Being the kindly brother, Milo suggests he read a book.  After about six rejections Max finds a favorite title only to discover his bed lamp is not working.

The ever patient Milo advises Max to use a flashlight. This works so well peals of laughter echo around the room making it rather difficult for the non-reader to get his much needed rest.  Believe it or not the flashlight causes another problem for the energetic brother.

Milo always has a logical solution for each of Max's troubles which are many, following him like stick-tights.  If it's not one thing it's another until Milo looses his cool.  Frustration accomplishes what nothing else has; leaving another insomniac.

Given the upbeat, true-to-life verbal exchanges between the duo, Heather Long understands and knows the interplay of brotherly relationships, particularly those at bedtime.  The humor is generated between the annoying exuberance of Max, the drowsy, obvious common sense of Milo and the precise pacing. Readers feel as though they are actively "watching and listening" to the complete episode.

You know laughter is not far behind when you look at the matching jacket and cover of this title; superhero-costume, bouncing Max on the right with mostly asleep, droopy-eyed Milo on the left is a pictorial statement of comedic opposites.  On the back a polka-dotted yellow and red paper airplane loop-de-loops toward the front.  Nathan Long's digitally rendered illustrations continue the story on the title page and verso.  Looking at these two pictures leaves no doubt in readers' minds as to who is the night owl and who simply wants to call it a day.

Long makes it clear in his illustrations there are more differences between Max and Milo than shown at bedtime.  Milo's side of the room is as neat as the proverbial pin but Max's side is a touch more creative, open drawer, pieces of origami paper on his bedspread, books scattered on the floor and a lava lamp on his night stand.  The gizmo Max rigs up for holding the flashlight will fill readers with glee.

 The color palette shown on the cover is continued throughout the title in a variety of layout combinations, two page, one page, panels on a single page and a circle inset of Max exclaiming Good idea!  You can feel every emotion through the facial expressions.  With every turn of page it is hard to miss Milo's growing frustration.  Careful readers will notice extra details like a copy of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow next of Milo's bed.

As I mentioned earlier this weekend in conversation, when you are in a book store reading a book and you suddenly laugh out loud, that title will quickly have a place in your home and school library.  Max & Milo Go to Sleep! written by Heather Long with illustrations by Ethan Long is such a book.  I highly recommend it as a bedtime or storytime choice.  Get ready for the pleas of read it again.

Please follow the link embedded in Ethan Long's name to access his website.  By following this link you can see several illustrative spreads inside the book at the publisher website.

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