In Sleep, Sleep, and Dream, Australian author Andrew Dodds coaxes children to sleep with a promise of magical dreams as whimsical illustrations spur fanciful thoughts.
This spare lullaby begins with two children going to bed, then visits the dreams they’ll have, using magical images and familiar themes of chasing moonbeams and sailing the Milky Way. Fairies dance beyond “mystic waters” and night falls in a “ballet of brilliant colours.”
However, the description of the journey into the dream world is fragmented – one dream shifts abruptly to the next – and the meaning behind the verses isn’t always clear. For example, Dodds moves from scenes of children playing with pirates to a forest where “they beat the jungle drum,” — a page that doesn’t make clear who “they” are. Are “they” the children?
Illustrator Madeleine Stulgis helps to fill in the ambiguity, and in some images she infuses the book with charm and luminous color. Her style is a playful mix of richly layered color and childlike drawings. In one illustration, lights in a child’s house illuminate gray walls with cozy arcs of pale yellow, and a quaint scribble of moonlight floods in a doorway. In another, mermaid-like fish have arching brows and wide lips, and a pirate boat is as charmingly undersized as the tub from the nursery rhyme “Rub-A-Dub-Dub.”
At times, however, elements of Stulgis’ images are confusing, even oddly dark. In the pirate image, a girl rides a giant turtle across the ocean, her arms open wide and face beaming, as a pirate flails about in the water nearby, his mouth a dark circle of fear, suggesting he’s drowning.
Though the lullaby draws on clichéd themes and sometimes lacks clear direction, most of the illustrations in Sleep, Sleep, and Dream have whimsical elements that might draw readers in and spur their bedtime imaginations.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.