A goldfish sleeps with his eyes wide open and bunnies snuggle in a nest of their mommy’s fur in Sleepy Faces in Sleeping Places, a rhyming picture-book take on animal sleep habits, complemented with soothing watercolor paintings by William L. Dowdy.
Debut author Laura K. Runion begins the picture book with a catchy introduction to the many ways creatures sleep, then goes verse by verse through the snoozing habits of 20 animals, from a puppy to a grown leopard, and then a little boy. While some verses are cleverer than others, the text is playful and shines when it’s sparely written. For example, under a picture of small horse asleep in a barn, she writes, “How does a pony choose to snooze? / Why, standing up and in his shoes!”
Occasionally, however, Runion stumbles. At one point, the author breaks from a balanced, rhythmic flow, shifting from a simple two-line verse to a wordier six-line poem. Although changing rhythms can help avoid monotony, here it seems random, giving the impression that Runion had more to say about one animal than another. In addition, Runion tries too hard to sell her book rather than let readers judge for themselves. In a preface, she promises readers “immortal memories”; in the end, this may elevate expectations beyond what she can deliver.
Dowdy’s paintings well reflect Runion’s thoughts, with a tranquil feeling that could coax readers to sleep, but his quality isn’t consistent and sometimes lacks creativity.
This is a cute read aloud story with some charming imagery, but it lacks a fresh angle and approach. Other popular picture books — including Il Sung Na’s A Book of Sleep, Mem Fox’s Time for Bed and Judy Hindley and Tor Freeman’s Sleepy Places — have been there before.
Also available as an ebook.