A small child takes a fantasy flight with a giant owl to see all the animals who live their secret lives at night. It’s a simple premise, but a complex book.
First, the illustrations are well done. They’re realistic, but not quite reality, giving a good impression of a dream. The text rhymes nicely, with a repeating phrase (the title of the book, While The World Is Sleeping) at the end of each page. There’s some opportunity for dramatization, if you make a try at “wonder” but there’s not a lot of variety. The emotion is pretty much constant throughout.
Although While The World Is Sleeping is a book you can simply read straight through, there’s also wonderful opportunities for discussion. First, what in the world are all these animals doing up all night? Considering how many bedtime books portray the overnight hours as a time when everyone, everwhere sleeps, this is a refreshing (and more truthful) change. If your child is of a scientific bent, try introducing the ideas of noctural (active at night) and diurnal (active in the day). You can bring it up again on your next evening car ride or walk, relating the story to real life.
Second, there’s a good amount of rather advanced vocabulary. Journey, stag, vale, fowl, sleek, bandit, slinking, glides… although I think a younger child can enjoy the story through just the pictures and the impression of the words, an older child will get more out of it if you can explain these words. Fortunately, the pictures will give you good ways to “show” the words – “bandit” is a raccoon with a furry mask around his eyes, for example.
Overall, a good story to return to several times; each time your child is likely to understand it, and therefore enjoy it, more.
Available on Amazon
While The World Is Sleeping by Pamela Duncan Edwards, illustrated by Daniel Kirk. Orchard Books, 2010.