Alliteration and animals add up to a child asleep in this latest offering from picture-book veterans Dragonwagon and McPhail.
Opening text introduces a familiar bedtime battle of wills between a child who resists slumber and a mother trying to lull him to sleep. This introductory section adopts a rhythmic, rhyming text that culminates with the mother saying, “The answer, darling little child, / is every creature, tame and wild, / has night and day, has still and leap, / has wide awake and sound asleep.” Ensuing pages go through the alphabet using alliterative language to describe animals going to sleep, from: “Antelope is already asleep, all the way to his antlers” to “and Zebra just Zzzzzzzzzzs.” These entries are rather uneven, and while the mother’s recitation may lull the child in the book to sleep, the impact on children listening to the book may be the opposite if they are interested in tracking the alliteration from page to page. Furthermore, the movement away from, and back into, rhyming verse feels rather forced. McPhail’s watercolor-and-ink illustrations, however, are consistently lovely in evoking diverse, sleepy fauna and simplified landscapes from page to page, with the pleasing inclusion of animals who appear in the alphabet pages in the opening and closing bedroom scenes.
A sweet depiction of sleepy animals that will especially please McPhail fans. (Picture book. 2-4)