In the crowded field of won’t-you-please-go-to-sleep books, this visually pleasing but awkwardly rhymed story fails to forge any new paths into dreamland.
The attractive cover of the oversized volume features a starry nighttime scene with a smiling fox asleep under a puffy quilt, establishing a calming tone. The first spread includes a little boy asleep in his bed next to his teddy bear, and from there, a wide variety of animals, including fish and fowl, bed down for the night in outdoor settings with anthropomorphic accessories such as pajamas, beds and cozy quilts. Appealing illustrations in a fanciful, mixed-media style employ collaged elements of paper and fabric against painted backgrounds, with swirling lines and oversized leaves and blossoms setting a surrealistic mood. The environments are scrambled together in a wildly disparate manner that echoes the illogical quality of the dream world, and proportions are often exaggerated so smaller creatures seem huge, like a butterfly as big as a tiger’s head. The rhyming text, translated from the Italian, bounces along in singsong fashion with some awkward scansion and phrasing that often trips into tongue-twister territory. Though the repeated introductory words, “hushaby, lullaby,” establish a serene cadence, many of the rhyming verses trip up rather than soothe.
Mary Logue’s Sleep Like a Tiger, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski (2013), and Mem Fox’s classic Time for Bed, illustrated by Jane Dyer (1993), explore the same territory with greater success. (Picture book. 3-6)