Review of While You’re Asleep

While You’re Asleep While You’re Asleep
by Emmy Kastner; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Simon    48 pp.
3/24    9781665931335    $18.99
e-book ed.  9781665931342    $10.99

“The Earth / slowly spins, / light fades away. / You’re ready for sleep / at the end of the day.” Soothing blue and gold illustrations in soft acrylic gouache, watercolor, and colored pencil lull listeners into this nifty piece of metafiction that starts as a bedtime story, swerves into a lesson on nocturnal animals, and then dives straight into weird. The gentle rhyming text finds bunnies, deer, and puppies asleep, but then there’s the raccoon. “Uh, that raccoon’s awake?” The unnamed omniscient narrator tries to veer back to slumber, but the raccoon and friends are busy pulling chicken bones out of trash cans. On subsequent page-turns, sleeping squirrels, bees, and bears contrast with wide-awake skunks tiptoeing, crickets chirping, and fireflies flickering. When the narrator happens upon some trout, the fourth wall comes tumbling down: “I can’t think of a rhyme. / Are these fish asleep? / They must be, but the whole eyes-wide-open thing is very confusing.” Finally, the narrator decides to close their own eyes—“for a moment to think”—and readers are treated to a dream about bats in top hats, opossums painting, and other animals doing all manner of unlikely things. Kastner skillfully plays with readers’ expectations and format conventions, creating a story that is both funny and thought provoking.

Pubissue-From the March/April 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Adrienne L. Pettinelli

Adrienne L. Pettinelli is the director of the Henrietta (NY) Public Library. She has served on several book award committees, including the 2015 Caldecott Committee, and is the author of Helping Homeschoolers in the Library (2008).

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