While You Are Sleeping


Written and Illustrated by Alexis Deacon

Farrar Straus Giroux, 2006

We are the bedside toys.  Do you ever stop to think what we go through, night after night, to look after you?

The plot in a nutshell: Stuffed animals describe their tasks as nighttime guardians of the child who loves them.

I was an anxious kid.  One of those who bolted up from a dead sleep at every creak in the floor or bump in the night.  Unless, of course, I had my protector in bed with me.  On an intellectual level, I knew that Cutlet or Molly Koala would be of no actual use if the long-imagined monsters or ethereal ‘bad guys’ ever showed up in my room.  But that didn’t change the fact that it somehow felt better having them there, because the element that brought danger was ‘alone’ and with someone (or something) there, I wasn’t alone.

This book explores that concept by showing the toys come alive and go to work as soon as their girl is fully asleep.  A work shift for them involves a thorough check of the room, adjusting covers to suit the room temperature, bedbug control, nightmare prevention, ensuring sleep on Christmas Eve (very important indeed!) and overall keeping their child safe at all times.  In keeping with every ‘toys come to life’ story, the toys have to get back into place before their child wakes up.

This child just doesn't look entirely well to me.

This child just doesn’t look entirely well to me.

Author/illustrator Alexis Deacon tells us this story through the eyes of a bear, sock monkey, elephant, dog and newly acquired lion.  As most of the story takes place during the night, the illustrations are dark, with a lot of shading.  Maybe it’s the darkness around these pictures that make us feel like we’re seeing something that we’re not usually allowed to see.  And maybe that’s one of the reasons that the pictures, although well drawn, seem unsettling to me (and most of the people I asked).  The toys themselves just looked to be a little on the malevolent side at times and I couldn’t shake the feeling that this girl was in danger.

And what did we learn?  What I take away from this book is that a good imagination keeps a child from ever being truly alone.  (And whether that’s a good or a bad thing is up to the individual imagination!)


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