Review of When I Wake Up

When I Wake Up
by Seth Fishman; illus. by Jessixa Bagley
Preschool    Greenwillow    40 pp.    g
11/21    978-0-06-245580-2    $17.99

A child is the first in the house to wake up and ponders what to make of the day: “Maybe I will do whatever I want to do.” In a nod to choose-your-own-adventure types of books, and perhaps even David Macaulay’s classic Black and White (1990), subsequent spreads include four separate vignettes, representing the child’s options and rendered via Bagley’s (Daisy, rev. 4/21) expressive, detailed watercolors with ­pencil. Perhaps it’s a good time to make breakfast, draw with crayons, ride a scooter, or garden. The vignettes first appear in separate circles, but then shift in size and shape as the child considers these options. Each is awash in its own color so that readers can easily follow with page-turns: the rose-colored series of images reveals the child’s fantasies of an undisciplined life (eating marshmallows to excess); the yellow series showcases creative tendencies; the lavender one depicts a daredevil spirit; and the jade one shows success in overcoming fears without parents around as guides. There is understated humor in Fishman’s (Power Up, rev. 3/19) text (“That was too many marshmallows” next to an illustration of feet dangling from a perch on the toilet); courage (sticking a tongue out at scary spiders); and fond nods to the parents (“I can always go back inside and find Mom if I’m scared”). What the child ultimately chooses to do, a heretofore unexplored fifth option, is a sweet surprise. An adventurous tribute to the imagination of children and a day’s endless opportunities.

From the November/December 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Julie Danielson
Julie Danielson
Julie Danielson writes about picture books at the blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. She also writes for Kirkus Reviews and BookPage and is a lecturer for the School of Information Sciences graduate program at the University of Tennessee. Her book Wild Things!: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature, written with Betsy Bird and Peter D. Sieruta, was published in 2014.

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