Sleep Like a Tiger is written by Mary Logue and magnificently illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski. Sleep Like a Tiger is a charming going-to-bed book about a little girl who insists she is not sleepy. Her parents humor her as she goes through her bedtime routine of putting on pajamas, washing up and, as she climbs into bed, "stretching her toes down under crisp sheets, lying as still as an otter floating in a stream." They tell her that she can stay up all night if she wants and they leave the door open a crack after a brief discussion of the sleeping habits of other creatures in the world. As she tries to stay awake, the girl snuggles into her bed, imagining the ways that all the other animals prepare for sleep and finally, like a tiger in the jungle who stays strong by sleeping most of the day, she falls asleep.
Logue, who is a novelist an a poet, has written a sweet story that is above the usual fare when it comes to bedtime books for kids. But, what really shoots Sleep Like a Tiger over the moon are Zagarenski's gorgeous, dreamy, layered illustrations. Zagarenski is best known for her Caldecott Honor winning illustrations for the book Red Sings From Treetops written by award winning children's poet Joyce Sidman. And, as I learned in the interview from June of 2009 at 7 Impossible Things (for a more recent interview with Jules and more amazing artwork than I could include in this review, click here) Zagarenski creates here work, which is usually painted on board, with acrylics, colored pencils, collage and sometimes computer graphics. This results in a work of art that is a story in and of itself, and it is obvious why when you take a look at one of Zagarenski's sketches for Sleep Like a Tiger that she shared in her interview.
Among the layers of imagery, texture and patterns in Zagarenski's work are clues and surprises that add depth to the story. Before going to bed, the little girl is playing with her toys, toys that become the animals she imagines going to sleep. In every corner of her illustrations there are treasures to look for. In her interview at Seven Impossible Things, she said that she sent "mostly enlarged details from the paintings inside - subtle things one might not see, like the four leaf clover, just for the viewer who finds it, in the paws of the tiger gaining strength." On of my favorite, not exactly hidden, aspects of Zagarenski's illustrations is the inclusion of The Little Prince, a favorite and influential book for Zagarenski, as the bedtime book the girls parents had been planning on reading to her.
If you are as taken with Zagarenski's art as I am, you'll be happy to know that she has a website, Sacredbee, where you can buy greeting cards featuring her beautiful artwork! And, since it is the gift giving season, for those of you who want to own artwork by some of the best artists in the world of kid's books, don't miss Red Cap Cards, started by picture book illustrator Carrie Gifford and featuring cards by Jon Klassen and spectacular new comer Christian Robinson.
More books illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
This is Just to Say : Poems of Apology and Forgiveness by Joyce Sidman, reviewed at books4yourkids.com during poetry month a couple of years ago.
Red Sings from Treetops : A Year in Colors by Joyce Sidman
Coming in February 2013, Zagarenski teams up with inveterate kid's poet Jack Prelutsky on STARDINES Swim Across the Sky and other poems. I have an advance copy of this and it is fantastic! I'll review it as we near the publication date...