Sophie Blackall's Are You Awake? is an amusing little picture book that captures life with a rambunctious, newly verbal toddler/early preschooler. As a mother attempts to sleep, her son Edward climbs up into her bed at 4 am, lifts one of her eyelids, and asks "Mom, are you awake?" This leads to a long series of questions and answers, as the hollow-eyed mom gradually wakes up, and Edward gradually gets sleepy.
Mom's text is in shown blue caps, Edward's in black sentence case, making it easy to discern the speaker in this book of 100% dialog. In some cases, dialog bubbles are used instead, and these are of course clear, too. There is humor for parents and children in Are You Awake? Like this:
Is Daddy awake?
I HOPE SO.
Why do you hope so?
BECAUSE HE'S FLYING A PLANE."
The discussions between mom and Edward start out a bit circular, as Mom attempts to close down conversation as quickly as possible, so that she can go back to sleep. Like this:
"Why is it still nighttime?
BECAUSE THE SUN HASN'T COME UP YET.
Why hasn't the sun come up yet?
BECAUSE THE MOON IS STILL OUT.
Why is the moon still out?
BECAUSE IT'S NIGHTTIME.
Eventually, as mom wakes up, conversation shifts to a listing of yellow things, just in time for the sun to come up, and the previously gray-tinged room to turn a warm yellow. Blackall's ink and watercolor illustrations gradually get brighter as the book progresses, but they always convey a certain warm coziness, as mother and son (and stuffed animal) snuggle up in bed. I love the contrast in the early pages of Edward's big, bright eyes and the mom's sleepy face, eyes determinedly closed. There's one illustration in which Edward is bent over, hands on bed, looking back through is legs at mom, who has her head buried in the pillow. What parent can't relate to that?
There's also a picture of Edward's stuffed animal (breed uncertain) in the lower left-hand corner of each page spread. Flipping through the pages quickly lets the reader watch the animal cavort, and eventually fall asleep (mirroring Edward's own trajectory). This is a fun addition to the book, a bonus for readers clever enough to figure it out.
Are You Awake? is a quick, engaging read that will feel authentic to both parents and small children. Personally, I'm not sure if I want to give my daughter the idea that extended conversations at 4 am are ok. But I have no doubt that this book will make 3 and 4 year olds giggle. Recommended for home use (probably less of a fit for storytimes).
Publisher: Henry Holt Books for Young Readers (@MacKidsBooks)
Publication Date: May 24, 2011
Source of Book: Library copy
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: Mary Ann Scheuer
© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).