Dream Animals by Emily Winfield Martin

Find in catalogAs kids across the nation head back to school, I’m reminded of the recommendations made earlier this summer by the American Academy of Pediatrics. In order to build the critical language, literacy, and social-emotional skills that will last a lifetime, pediatricians now advise parents to read aloud regularly with their young children, from infancy until they enter school. Research shows that reading aloud is the single most important thing you can do to help a child prepare for reading and learning.

With reading to little ones on my mind, I was enchanted to come across “Dream Animals,” a new bedtime picture book, by Portland artist and author Emily Winfield Martin. Martin’s lush, full color illustrations vividly portray a dream world of surprising texture and detail. Her palette alternates pleasingly between a deep blue starry night sky and a lighter green, gold, and orange. Martin’s sumptuous style reminded me of another northwest author/illustrator, Barbara Helen Berger, whose original paintings for “Grandfather Twilight” are now on display at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art.

“Dream Animals” is written in simple rhyme, brief and calming – perfect for a sleepy toddler. For those who want to explore further, there’s another level to the story in the simple indigo ink drawings on the versos and endpapers. Here Martin develops the “real life” characters of her sleeping children, who display distinct personalities, as well as gender and ethnic diversity. Readers can follow the hints – a stuffed tiger, a book, a nightlight – as each is transformed in the dream landscape.

According to Martin, when she was small every moment was spent “drawing, reading, dressing rabbits in fancy clothes, and having many peculiar daydreams.” We’re fortunate that when she grew up, she found a way to share those daydreams with us.

I’ve loved reading bedtime stories to many children over the years, from Margaret Wise Brown’s “Goodnight Moon” to Maurice Sendak’s “In the Night Kitchen.” Martin’s “Dream Animals” is a welcome addition to the family’s bedtime repertoire. – Connie Bennett, Library Director

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