Written and Illustrated by Josh Schneider
Clarion Books, 2015
Every kind of bird and beast
In the West and in the East
Way up high and way down deep
Everybody has to sleep
But not Fred. Fred has a to-do list you wouldn’t believe.
The plot in a nutshell: An imaginative boy has too much to do to sleep.
In the jungle, animals and birds are fast asleep, but Fred is jumping and it’s apparently important. On a farm, all the pigs, sheep and chickens are sleeping, but Fred is shouting as loud as he can. The creatures of the ocean are asleep, but Fred has a horn collection that needs testing. Ants underground are snoozing, but Fred is mastering karate. Scary animals and even monsters are settling down for the night, but Fred is looking for Sasquatch. Finally, Fred’s parents change from a storybook to a book of bedtime poetry and Fred falls asleep.
Author/illustrator Josh Schneider has a fantastic gift for rhyme that makes this book just ridiculously fun to read aloud. The rest of the book follows the example above, with a rhyming quatrain and then one line about Fred, out there on its own. In addition to being fun to read, it underscores both the calmness of the sleeping animals and the oddness of Fred. I love the fact that poetry is Fred’s undoing, especially when you think about the fact that it’s included in a story told through poetry. Whoa.
The artwork, in watercolor, pen and ink, is not likely to induce your little one to fall asleep, though, since it brings a metric ton of humor to this bedtime tale. It all starts with Fred himself, who has a funny little egg-shaped head and a serious expression that shows he means business. Each picture of sleeping animals is filled with little details that you probably won’t catch until the second or third time through. And at least one animal from each section follows Fred through the rest of the book. What you can read of the sleep-inducing poetry made me laugh out loud (‘fluffy tummies’ is rhymed with ‘foreign monies’) and the final image of Fred is awesome. He’s sacked out on his pillow, surrounded by stuffed animals from his adventures, suggesting that it was all in his imagination. There’s even a note at the back to close the book softly so you don’t wake him up. I loved this book.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that a good imagination offers you millions of fun opportunities, but to really enjoy them, you have to stop and rest once in a while.