March 08, 2018

Sleepy Bird

Written and illustrated by Jeremy Tankard
Scholastic Press
32 pp.
Ages 3-5
March 2018

It's late.  Why isn't Bird sleeping?!
From Sleepy Bird by Jeremy Tankard
Bird is not sleepy, or so he thinks.  He wants to play and party and seeks out each of his animal friends to keep him company.  Each one tells him it's bedtime and recommends a sleep aid like hugging a blankie (that from Fox), or reading a bedtime story (Beaver), snuggling with a stuffie (Rabbit), singing a lullaby (Raccoon) or counting sheep (obviously from Sheep).  But he poohpoohs their suggestions, storming off like he often does (remember, he was Grumpy Bird in his first book).
From Sleepy Bird by Jeremy Tankard
But, after a little while, he is reduced to tears and questioning empathically "WHY SHOULD I GO TO SLEEP?"  His friends, ever faithful, come running and support their dear friend with all the recommendations they'd made earlier, helping their feathered companion find a way to dreamland.
From Sleepy Bird by Jeremy Tankard
What parent doesn't know the child who will not go to sleep?  In fact, they will recognize the crankiness, protestations, and eventual winding down of a little one, and their own ploys used to help a child fall into slumber.  Undoubtedly they will also recognize some comments made by Bird's friends, especially "I thought he'd NEVER fall asleep," as proclaimed by Fox.  But it's Bird's responses that always have me laughing. (I think, Jeremy Tankard, there's a Funny Bird in your future.) Bird's replies to his friends, ever escalating in their intensity, include "Blankie shmankie", "Are you TRYING to give me nightmares?" and to Sheep's suggestion of counting sheep: "HOW CAN YOU GET SLEEPY COUNTING TO ONE?"

But, as clever as the text is and as pertinent as its theme, Sleepy Bird will grab readers and non-readers with its bold and colourful illustrations.  Jeremy Tankard's wacky characters are as familiar now as Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit and Mo Willems's Elephant and Piggie and we love everything about them: their vibrant colours, coarse lines and clean shapes as well as their expressive poses and faces. What is more is that Jeremy Tankard's landscapes of splatterings of flowers, rocks, and trees amidst enormous ground-level stars and a moon provide a surreal contrast to a very commonplace story i.e. putting a reluctant child to bed.

So, the next time you have to help little ones find their way to rest, grab those blankies and stuffies and read Sleepy Bird.  I can't assure you that they'll go to sleep but you'll at least enjoy the attempt until they decide for themselves that sleep is best.

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