Usually it is the sleepless child who invents a nocturnal story for his or her stuffed animals to enact; Boyd imagines the reverse.
The narrative employs the elements and accoutrements associated with a theatrical performance, starting with the red-and-white jacket flaps that are shaped like drawn curtains. This attention-grabbing design component echoes the protagonist’s similarly striped pajamas and is incorporated into each spread. The drapery functions as side borders on pages of varying widths—a situation that promotes turning back and forth to check on partial or complete disappearances. While Arlo’s friends—rabbit, lemur, fawn, leopard, and birds—plan the first act, the little boy falls asleep. The backdrop consists of changing scenery rendered in a controlled palette of blues or greens against white—a foil for the solid, gouache characters and an opportunity to hide extra details for observant viewers. Costumes are procured and abandoned (too itchy, etc.); props are brought out after a run-through of sound effects and actions. The noise wakes Arlo, and the curtains open in a climactic gatefold that reveals a grand sailing expedition before a sleepy denouement. As in actual productions created by a group of youngsters, the event is more about negotiations and protocols than plot, but the creative die cuts, quick pace, and winsome creatures provide an enjoyable diversion. Arlo has straight, black hair, and his skin is paper-white.
A clever introduction to theater for young audiences or performers (and an inspiration for post-bedtime play). (Picture book. 3-6)