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Uplifting Picture Books That Don't Preach
Marc Just Couldn't Sleep
Marc Just Couldn't Sleep
by Gabriela Keselman, illustrated by Noemi Villamuza
Shortly afterwards Marc called out once more.
"What if the moon melts, and the world goes dark?" he asked.
"Don't worry honey," his mom answered, "I'll fix that, and soon you'll fall fast asleep."
She gave him a pair of glasses with glow in the dark lenses and sent a letter to the moon. The letter said, "Moon, don't even think about doing anything silly like melting or something."
And then she left.
--Marc Just Couldn't Sleep, by Gabriela Keselman, illustrated by Noemi Villamuza, p. 10.
Marc can't sleep. He's scared, and he worries about big things and small things. Each time he tells his mother a worry, she comes up with imaginative, playful ways to try to soothe him and get him to sleep. But even after she's found a solution for each of his worries, he's still scared. Exasperated, his mother comes in, takes away all the things she gave him as solutions, and sits with him, touching his hair, and encourages him to tell her all his fears--but by then, Marc is tired enough that he falls asleep. Imagination can help--but sometimes we just need physical comfort and having someone sit with us and listen, to go to sleep. This is a sweet, imaginative bedtime story.
Keselman makes it easy to identify with Marc--we hear immediately that he's scared. Anyone who worries a lot, or who has a strong imagination, will understand Marc's worrying and fear all the more. Some of Marc's worries are universal--afraid of falling out of bed--and some are much more specific and imaginative--such as being afraid a giant mosquito will fly in and bite him. This movement between common fears and outrageous, imaginative ones helps bring variation, makes the fears entertaining, and may help some readers know that they are not alone in their worries and fears.
Marc's mother shows great ingenuity and imagination in her solutions for Marc's fears, and this brings a lightness and comforting feeling to the book. It may also encourage readers to come up with their own imaginative solutions. But the thing that soothed Marc the most was his mother sitting down next to him, touching his hair, and encouraging him to tell her everything. This rings true; talking out fears, having someone listen to you, and getting safe physical comfort can help allay fears. Marc's mother also uses various endearments throughout the book (little one, honey, my love, darling) which all add to the sense of comfort.
The imaginative solutions have a playfulness to them, and a magical thinking that will appeal to young readers, especially, and the young at heart--a buzz-repellent teddy bear when he's afraid a giant mosquito will bite him; a parachute when he's afraid of falling out of bed; and a pair of glasses with glow-in-the-dark lenses when he's afraid the moon will go out. The solutions are gentle, perfect for nighttime and for encouraging dreaming and flights of imagination.
Keselman creates a nice echo with the opening and closing paragraphs which brings us full circle, the words slightly changed to reflect the change in the story, from Marc not being able to sleep, to Marc not being able to stay awake. Keselman also uses repetition before each solution "Don't worry, honey/love/darling, I'll fix that, you'll soon fall asleep" with slight variations in the endearments and way of saying he'll fall asleep. This repetition is pleasing, comes to be expected in the text, and yet is not tedious or boring, because of the slight variations. The text flows well and smoothly.
Villamuza's illustrations use the same tone that Keselman does in the text, bringing a feeling of comfort and sweetness, as well as a playfulness and gentle humor (such as a strainer being used for a helmet). Soft earthy tones are used and echoed throughout the illustrations, such as the clay-orange colander that Marc wears on his head, which is also found in his mother's sweater.
Villamuza's illustrations have long, lovely curves, found especially in Marc's mom and the furniture, and there are no extraneous details in the illustrations. Marc is almost always the center of attention through close-ups that feature him. Large eyes, a sweet button nose, generous lips, and beautiful curvy hair make Marc look sweet, as does his pajamas and body language. Charcoal shading over top color brings a sense of light and shadow, and also movement.
Villamuza adds to the story by visually suggesting the great inventiveness and resourcefulness of Marc's mother in using things around the house in an imaginative way to help him feel safer, such as a metal cooking spoon for a sword. A lot of white space is used in a number of the illustrations, bringing a feeling of lightness, with illustrations using full color mixed in, bringing visual variation. Villamuza has a great sense of design, using wallpaper that rises halfway up the wall to make Marc even more of a visual focus point.
This is a gentle, imaginative, and ultimately soothing book, both in the illustrations and text. Recommended!
-Added January 30, 2008
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