In a Blue Room by Jim Averbeck is all about putting together the perfect bedtime ritual. Alice is not ready for bed. Her excuse? She can only sleep in a blue room. Good thing Alice’s mother is the model of caring patience, bringing Alice a series of lovely offerings to ease her towards sleep. Illustrator Tricia Tusa presents Alice as a little bit like a rag doll in appearance, and every illustration conveys the warmth of the relationship between mother and daughter. You’ll likely recognize Tusa’s work from Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden, and more recently, Fred Stays with Me. I just love her whimsical style. It’s full of energy and softness and I’ll bet that even though the art appears very free on the page, I imagine every illustration is the result of painstaking process. Gorgeous.
This is the kind of picture book that makes it easy to see why many children’s authors say that writing a great picture book is super, super difficult. In so very few words, Averbeck creates and sustains a pitch perfect peaceful mood, just right for resistant sleepers.
Take these lines:
In a blue room,
yellow bells on black strings
chime softly in the window breeze.
And wait til you get to the part when Alice’s mother turns out the light and blue sweeps through Alice’s bedroom and out into the night. The book is full of sensory images so simple, so easy to feel, smell and see, that you cannot help but slow down and be right there in the moment while you read. I suppose that’s what’s required in a great bedtime read. You want to draw the little ones away from the craziness of the day, into the quiet world of the story. Averbeck’s careful, poetic text does just that. And the end is stunning, in a quiet, sigh-inducing sort of way. It leaves you feeling all is right with the world.
For sleepy heads, dreamers, and the grown ups who tuck them in. Bring your own flowers, tea, quilts and lullaby bells. (Which gets me thinking… this book + a set of tiny window chimes = perfect present for baby insomniacs).