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Reviewed by:
  • Are You Awake
  • Hope Morrison
Blackall, Sophie. Are You Awake?; written and illus. by Sophie Blackall. Ottaviano/Holt, 2011. 40p. ISBN 978-0-8050-7858-9 $12.99 R 4–6 yrs.

Illustrator Blackall makes her writing debut with this amusing story about the nocturnal banter between a sleepless boy and his sleepy mother. The text is simply dialogue between the persistent son and patient mom: “Mom, are you awake?” “Mm-mm. No.” “Why aren’t you awake?” “Because I’m asleep.” “Why are you asleep?” “Because it’s still nighttime.” “Why is it still nighttime?” “Because the sun hasn’t come up yet.” Near story’s end, Edward is finally asleep, the clock reads 7 a.m., and Dad (a pilot coming off a redeye flight) is sneaking in the door. The 71 final page shows Dad, two hours later, asleep in his bed, with Edward climbing to his side and starting the interrogation anew with “Dad? Dad? Are you awake?” The sparely formatted text, with kid and mom alternating dialogue line-by-line and their words differentiated only by typeface, effectively conveys the hush of sleepy speech in a dark room, while the percussive persistence of the questioning kid is both funny and authentic; the text sometimes shifts to word bubbles, with illustrations comically conveying the facial expressions of the speakers. The [End Page 71] book’s careful design—small, square trim size, controlled illustrative vignettes on a white background—adds to the safe and cozy bedtime flavor, while Edward’s toy elephant features in a flip-book sequence that puts him, too, to sleep. Blackall’s ink and watercolor compositions are both simple and sophisticated in their smoky tones and cunning touches. The near-monochromatic tones of the darkest scenes contrast amusingly with the wide-open eyes of mother and son, and the mother’s expressions convey the perfect blend of exasperation and affection. This will be best appreciated by youngsters with enough distance from the kid’s behavior to understand its implications; those kids and their parents will find plenty to identify with in this witty tribute to the world of “why?”



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pp. 71-72
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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