Sleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue. Illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
Published 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 40p
Shortly after I have started working with children with behavior problems I learned that one of the main reasons for their meltdowns was fatigue and sleep deprivation. During the day, they easily become frustrated, impulsive and upset because their basic needs (food and sleep) are not met. Sadly, some parents do not realise how important routine and consistency are in a child’s life and how negotiating every night the bedtime hours are not in the benefit of the children, be they very young or in primary school.
Reading Sleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, I had many thoughts and paradoxical emotions. The book is a gem, so I am not surprised it was a Caldecott Medal Book in 2013. The text is warm and poetical and the illustrations are stunning. While delighted with the story and the beautiful artwork, I thought of the many students I know now that have no idea what having dinner in the family or a goodnight kiss mean. There are consistent scientific proofs that demonstrate the significance of bedtime routine and its connections with the happiness and wellbeing of the child but unfortunately there are many situations when parents do not pay particular attention to this aspect and do not understand the severe effects of sleep loss.
Back to the story, it follows a little girl who doesn’t want to go to sleep, “even though the sun had gone away”. The approach of the parents should be an example for us all. Kindly, patiently, they don’t force the girl to go to bed but advise her to put the pyjamas on, brush her teeth and climb into bed with her favourite stuffed toys.
“Does everything in the world go to sleep?” she asked.
“Yes”, her parents told her. “Our dog is sleeping right now, curled up in a ball on the couch, where he’s not supposed to be. And the cat is fast asleep in front of the fireplace, the warmest spot in the house.”
“What about bats?” she asked. “They don’t sleep!”
“Not at night,” her parents agreed, “but during the day they fold their wings, tuck their heads, and sleep hanging upside down in the safest place in the barn.”
“Do whales sleep?” she asked.
“Yes. They swim slowly around and around in a large circle in the ocean and sleep.”
Their conversation is the evidence of affection and strong boundaries in the family. The parents patiently allow time for the girl to understand that there is a cycle in her life and just as all the animals she has named, she needs to go to sleep too. Tucking her in, her parents explain that the tiger in the jungle stays strong because when he is not hunting, he finds some shade and sleeps.
Moments later, in her cozy bed, “a cocoon of sheets, a nest of blankets”, watched from the doorway by her parents, the girl folded her arms like the wings of a bat, found the most comfortable spot and just like a tiger fell fast asleep.
Complement Sleep Like A Tiger with Lane Smith’s Grandpa Green, a picture book that illustrates how memories shape us and keep families together.