A Songbird Dreams of Singing: Poems about Sleeping Animals

By Kate Hosford, illustrated by Jennifer M. Potter. Running Press Kids, 2019. 40 pages. $19.99/hardcover; $12.99/eBook. Recommended for ages 4–8.

My seven-year-old friend accepted the invitation to look at the new book and tell me whether she’d recommend it to other children. We’d been spending a relaxing afternoon together, with her younger sister, and I was concerned lest this might seem to be a heavy task, a distraction from other activities. Far from it. She immediately settled in the most comfortable armchair and began at once to sight-read every poem, pausing only to ask how to pronounce such unusual words as “tsetse” and “leisurely.” Neither of us was quite sure how to say “sloth.” The poems are clearly printed in black on a light background, or white on a dark background. I asked if she would like to read a poem for my husband, mentioning that he especially loves birds. She chose “Ducks in a Row” and the title poem “A Songbird Dreams of Singing” (about zebra finches), which she later read again, for her father.

She liked the pictures, which are full-page and well-drawn on colored backgrounds. When I wondered whether she found some of the background dark, she assured me that she liked the pictures.

She paid no attention to the third element of the book. Every illustration includes a

paragraph or two describing the sleeping habits of the pictured creature. These are clear and interesting, accessible to older children. The final glossary balances “A Note from the Author,” which begins the book, and which my seven-year-old friend also ignored. My only criticism of the hardcover is the absence of a contents page and page numbers.

Should I recommend the book to other children? My friend had no hesitation in saying yes. As an adult and former seven-year-old, I agree. The cover and endpapers are sumptuous. Here are an ocelot and a tiny snail, a lemur and a zebra finch, resting amid golden-leaved branches, delicate flowers, and blue stars. The colors, peacefulness, and poems express—and are reflected by—the sleeping animals and dreaming songbirds. I consider that this high-quality, attractive, well-researched volume would be a treasured addition to any bookshelf. And when this review has been printed, I will, honorably but reluctantly, part with it to my (by then) eight-year-old co-reviewer and friend.

Margaret Crompton (Britain Yearly Meeting) wrote Pendle Hill pamphlet 419 Nurturing Children’s Spiritual Well-Being. Recent publications include poems, short stories, and four plays.

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