CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 22. . . . February 9, 2018
Parents and children will readily identify with the situation Tankard has created in Sleepy Bird as, with bedtime approaching, Bird declares that he “was not ready to go to sleep”. Instead, “It’s party time!” Bird seeks out each of his animal friends, Fox, Beaver, Rabbit, Racoon and Sheep, in turn and invites them to play. They individually respond by pointing out that it’s bedtime, and each offers to share the “something” that assists them in going to sleep: hugging a blankie, reading a story, snuggling a stuffed toy, singing a soft lullaby, and counting sheep. With increasing rudeness, Bird rejects each of his friends’ sleep assistance ideas, even pointing out to Racoon he should not even be considering sleep at this point in the day as racoons are nocturnal creatures. Storming off, Bird decides that, if his friends won’t play with him, “he would just walk forever”. However, his walking is fatiguing, but Bird completely rejects the idea that he might be getting tired, and, in frustration, loudly shouts, “WHY SHOULD I GO TO SLEEP!”
Hearing Bird’s cry, his five friends come running, and simultaneously they apply their “sleep aids” to a still protesting “I...Am...Not...Sleepy...” Bird. Successful in getting Bird to fall asleep, the quintet, themselves, nod off, but Tankard has a final surprise awaiting readers, one with which many parents will ruefully self-identify.
The background colours in Tankard’s illustrations mirror the hues of the approaching night as oranges and yellows increasing mix with blues and purples before giving way to the nighttime sky’s dark blues that are somewhat relieved by a rising waxing moon. Tankard engages in a bit of playful “product placement” as the books Beaver offers to read to Bird are the first three books in the series, and the book that Beaver actually shares with Bird during the group’s sleep intervention is Sleepy Bird. Though the text is brief, it is vocabulary rich, and Bird’s facial expressions extend the emotions suggested by the text.
In Bird, Tankard has created an absolutely delightful “child” character, one which, like Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark’s Franklin the Turtle, captures universal aspects of childhood. Sleepy Bird belongs in all libraries.
Dave Jenkinson, CM's editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.