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Monday, April 13, 2015

Everybody Sleeps (But Not Fred), written and illustrated by Josh Schneider. Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Thomas Allen & Son, 2015. $21.99 ages 4 and up

"On the farm, the chickens doze.
The pigs nod off in stinky rows.
Sheep lie in a woolly heap,
count themselves, and fall asleep.

But not Fred.

Fred is breaking the world
shouting record."

While trying to break that record, Fred lifts the roof off the barn where the pigs, sheep and chickens are slumbering soundly. Everybody needs sleep! That boy Fred would like to think he is the exception to the rule. In sets of four line stanzas, Josh Schneider describes the many beasts and birds of the world who succumb to sleep as a way of rejuvenating themselves. Fred, on the other hand, has far too many things that he must be doing.

"Fred has a to-do list you wouldn't believe."

There are 100 things on that last. The last three are:

"98. Wrestle a bear.
99. Eat 300 cookies.
100. Go to moon."

Fred does all that he can to avoid any needed rest. He knows the best ways to keep himself awake; unfortunately, his antics cause difficulties for those trying to get the benefit of their nightly nap. Even before his story begins, we can see that Fred has the routines down pat ... a bath, teeth brushing. As he prepares, his pets observe their own sleepytime rituals. But, wait! We have no idea what is about to happen.

Every stanza designed to lure little listeners quietly into sleep is messed with by the exuberant Fred. No creature on land or in the sea is safe from his boisterous antics. Each new setting is what every kid dreams of, and each is hinted at in the front matter. Since Fred has no wish to sleep, he is going to ensure that the same is true for everyone else.

If  kids don't succumb to sleep after a few books, do parents turn to poetry in hopes that it will be boring enough to let nature takes its course? It works for some. Will it work for Fred? You will understand how when you read the lines of the book that are so clearly evident at the bottom of the poetry spread:

"Three Sleepy Bunnies

Sleepy bunnies blah blah blah.
Fluffly tummies blah blah blah"

My eyes are closing, my head is nodding. What about Fred? With thumb in mouth and hand securely attached to his stuffed lamb, he is off to slumberland. Please close the book quietly!

What an invitation comes with the warning placed on the final page! If you wake him, it might start all over again ... well???

There is not a chance that this will be the last time you read this zany, incredibly well written and perfectly designed book! With each repeated visit, you will make new discoveries; you are sure to snicker at Fred's antics; you will be even more impressed by the thought, humor, and detail that Josh Schneider has implemented to bring this very special bedtime book to the top of my list for reading with my inquisitive, determined, not-much-interested-in sleep granddaughter. Oh, we are going to have fun!

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