In a twist on numerous picture books about little animals who are determined to stay awake, Chengdu the panda is trying his hardest to get to sleep.
Droll illustrations accompany spare, lulling text, leading to Chengdu’s success and a humorous surprise near the book’s end. The cover art is an immediate draw: The small panda’s oversized paws cling to a tree branch as his expressive, sleep-deprived face stares at readers, expertly matching the “could not, would not fall asleep” of the title. Initial pages establish a soporific mood, showing utterly relaxed, drowsily smudged pandas snoozing against a star-studded black sky, muted green bamboo branches the only spots of color. Large, softened white letters murmur, “It was late, and it was quiet, // and everyone in the bamboo grove was sleeping.” The next double-page spread consists of white space with only two wide-awake, black-masked panda eyes and the words, “Everyone except….” Of course, the page turn leads readers back to wide-awake Chengdu, staring plaintively from his moon-washed tree branch. Varied compositions and a couple of gatefolds add to the fun for readers as poor Chengdu tosses, scrunches and climbs his way to sleep…almost but, happily, not quite at the expense of his brother, Yuan.
Little sleepyheads will love chanting along with the words, and no one can deny the appeal of the art. A bedtime winner. (Picture book. 1-5)