Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Stories Behind the Pictures #6

Analyzing the Stories Behind this Year’s Caldecotts

Day 6—Sleep Like A Tiger

Sleep Like A Tiger
Written by Mary Logue
Illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

This book is spellbinding. Sleep Like A Tiger is a bedtime story, a concept book about ways animals sleep, and has the tone and visual appearance of a folktale. The prose is lyrical and each word is carefully chosen. Each time I read this book I discover a new, perfect description, a metaphor I’d missed, or something new in an illustration.

The story is about an unnamed little girl who does not want to go to sleep. Her parents say that’s okay, but encourage her to wash her face, brush her teeth, put on her PJs, crawl in bed, and so on. The little girl makes all of her bedtime preparations and begins asking questions about how animals sleep. Her parents answer the inquiries about sleeping snails, whales, bats, and so on. The little girl recalls that tigers sleep many hours a day in order to stay strong. But she still is not sleepy. The parents tell her she can stay awake all night, and leave her alone in bed. The little girl recalls the animals and how they sleep and practices each of their techniques until she finally falls asleep herself.

I often look at picture books for teaching points to use with students. This also helps me as a writer since the basics of writing instruction are the same as the basics of writing itself—craft. The most obvious craft take-aways from this book are the lovely descriptions, similes, and metaphors. Here are a few examples:

. . . “but during the day they [bats] fold their wings, tuck their heads, and sleep hanging upside down in the safest place in the barn.”

“They [whales] swim slowly around and around in a large circle in the ocean and sleep.”

“Bears are mighty sleepers. They make a cozy den under the snow and sleep through the winter.”

“They [snails] curl up like a cinnamon roll inside their shell.”

She folded her arms like the wings of a bat.

Then she snuggled deep as a bear, the deep-sleeping bear.

The little girl’s bed was warm and cozy, a cocoon of sheets, a nest of blankets.

Sleep Like A Tiger is well worth the read and it’s worth browsing through the book’s illustrations as well. Warning: You may end up in a spellbinding, ready-for-sleep state. Trust me, you won’t mind it one bit.

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