CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 7. . . .October 16, 2015
A wonderful companion to Reid’s earlier Sing a Song of Mother Goose, Sing a Song of Bedtime contains 13 nursery rhymes whose themes connect in some way with sleep. And, in keeping with the book’s title, some, like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and the bilingual “Are You Sleeping/Frère Jacques”, can actually be sung. The poems are a mixture of the mostly familiar, including “There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe”, “Jack Be Nimble” and “Diddle, Diddle Dumpling, My Son John”, with a few ( at least for me) being lesser known offerings, two examples being “Sleep, Baby, Sleep” and “A Wise Old Owl”.
With the exception of the final nursery rhyme, “Hush, Little Baby”, which takes up four pages, each of the remaining dozen poems occupies a pair of facing pages, with one full-page carrying Reid’s trademark plasticine illustrations and the other the text plus a smaller illustration that connects to the main illustration.
Again, Reid’s detailed plasticine illustrations are outstanding and demand repeated viewings in order to absorb their richness. Her characters, a mixture of anthropomorphic animals and humans of different races, have been appropriately chosen to represent and express each poem’s content. Who better to be “Wee Willie Winkie” running through the town in his nightgown but a raccoon, or more likely to be nimble and quick in jumping over a candlestick but a young “Jack” rabbit? Variety abounds in perspective. For “Diddle, Diddle Dumpling, My Son John”, an overhead shot finds father and son in bed, but only dad is asleep. “There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe” uses a cutaway boot to reveal that mother mouse is not faring well in putting her brood of 14 to bed, with only three of her pups even close to being in the bedroom while one mouse youngster is still hanging out on the text page. What’s particularly amazing is Reid’s ability to generate texture with her illustration medium. The softness of the adult bear’s pink sweater in “Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear” is almost tangible. Reid’s silent illustrations also evoke sounds, especially in the case of the closed-eyed crying baby in the first of the two full-page illustrations of “Hush, Little Baby”. Appropriately, and in keeping with contemporary parenting practices, the text of “There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe” uses updated wording:
instead of the original 17th century wording:
My one little quibble with Sing a Song of Bedtime is actually a design concern. The book’s penultimate poem is “Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear” whose first six lines read:
Those words invite participation and action, and, though the next line says, “Teddy Bear, teddy bear, go to bed”, it’s too late. Parents using this book in a real “go-to-sleep” scenario might want to start with this poem or “try” to skip it on the way by; however, we all know that, after the first reading, virtually every child recognizes when the reading adults “miss” a page or two.
Physically larger than the typical picture book, with 24 point Esprit Book typeface, Sing a Song of Bedtime would work well in small group library/classroom settings as well as in the home as a lap book.
Dave Jenkinson, who lives in Winnipeg, MB, is CM ’s editor.
on this title or this review, send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.