Recently I looked at picture books where bedtime procrastination prevails. However what about the times when your child is desperate for sleep but harbours worries too numerous to overcome? Their efforts meet with repeated defeat. New concerns infest their sleep-deprived psyches until they convince themselves they are unable to sleep no matter what.
This perpetuating cycle of anxiety is not only detrimental for children but distressing for parents as well. Here are two new picture books that deal with this dilemma with bright originality.
In Susan Whelan’s and Gwynneth Jones’ debut picture book, Don’t Think About Purple Elephants, Sophie is a bit of a worrier. Her worries don’t intrude much on her life during the day. She draws, plays, and day dreams like most seven-something year-olds. But at night, ‘when everything is quiet and still…Sophie starts to worry’. Oh, I hear you, Sophie!
Of course, most of these worries are merely over exaggerated unreasonable ‘what if’ thoughts but if faced with just brussels sprouts for dinner, you’d be rather toey too, I expect.
Caught in an awful tangle of tortuous thoughts, Sophie is losing sleep and hope faster than she can count to ten sheep. Then, one night before lights out, Mum calmly advises Sophie to NOT think about purple elephants.
Perplexed, Sophie tries to follow her mum’s suggestion and fails, spectacularly. The result is the best night’s sleep Sophie has had in ages. Could this be the start of a coloured animal invasion?
Not thinking about Purple Elephants is an approach to insomnia that I am definitely trying and a picture book I highly recommend for its touching narrative and sumptuous, whimsy-kissed illustrations.
EK Books April 2015
Wendy and the Wallpaper Cat by Jason Hook and Ilaria Demonti, is another equally captivating bedtime tale for pre and primary schoolers that just might tip the scales on bedtime tension.
Wendy is a young girl who has explored nearly every avenue to reach slumber including chucking cartwheels on her bed! Frustratingly, nothing works so mum and dad pack her off to Grandpa Walter’s, a place she has never been before. It’s a house of many rooms decorated with the most wondrous wallpapers Wendy’s ever seen. She and teddy are enchanted by their new surroundings. As if by magic, the rose patterned wallpaper smells of…you guessed it, roses and she can handpick oranges from the orchard-decorated room. But it’s when Wendy steps into the room papered with her favourite nursery rhyme charterers that the real fun begins.
She chooses this room as her temporary nocturnal chamber, wondering just how she’ll fit sleep in with so many marvellous distractions on the walls. It’s the fiddle-welding blue cat that leads her on a merry cavort through each landscape and garden and ultimately, into blissful slumber. Jason Hooks’ delightful circular narrative includes enough repeating phrases and quirky character idiosyncrasies to hook young readers and those reading with them.
Lavishly illustrated by Milan based illustrator, Ilaria Demonti, the wallpapers in Grandpa’s house are from real wallpapers, all designed by English artist, Walter Crane (1845 – 1915). Crane’s designs often included pictures from fairy tales and nursery rhymes and featured on many a child’s nursery walls in the 1870’s including those of Mark Twain’s children’s. You can still see these at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, who published this book.
If a trip to the UK is not on your imminent horizon, pick up Wendy and the Wallpaper Cat, here. It’ll cure your insomnia whilst exacerbating your appreciation of fine art.
V & A Publishing May 2015