Monday, July 19, 2021

Review: Sleepy Stories by Mario Levrero

Today's review waves from Argentine and will be released in English this coming July. I love these translated tales, since they probably give the best impression of the richness of other cultures and the way they see the world. The artwork in this one is quite original and will offer young readers something beyond the 'normal' picture book illustrations they're usually exposed to...but they probably still aren't as unique as the tales in this book are. Plus, this one is great for those parents who enjoy making a read-aloud come to life, since it does a type of switch-back between the reader/parent in the tale and the child.

Curious to learn more? 

by Mario Levrero
Illustrated by Diego Bianki
Translated by Alicia Lopez
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 5 to 10

JULY 6th!!!

A buoyant account of the nightly tug-of-war between a sleepy father and his son, and the richly imaginative sleepy stories they create

Each story told in Sleepy Stories drifts deeper into a beguiling dream world, telling of an elastic gentleman who stretches his body across town to effortlessly slip into bed, or of another sleepy young man who curls inside an upside-down umbrella to take a snooze. In Diego Bianki's magical universe, the waking world is made small (a French press and a red top hat shrink before our eyes), while the dream world Levrero and his son Nicol's build together (a land of sly frogs, giant apes, and smiling squids) waltzes across the page. On the last of Bianki's whimsical illustrations, Nicol's holds the book over his father's nodding head and says, Another. This is a book to giggle with and curl up with, to take on every sleepy adventure.

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                                              * contains six stories
                                              * original artwork
                                              * written as an adult and child dialogue
                                              * translated from a favorite in Argentine


This book takes a different direction into the realm of bedtime reads, steering toward the reality of tired parents and using easy, psychological tools like yawns to sink into the world of dreams. In other words, it's original and clever.

Nicol wants a reader identified only as 'me' to tell him a bedtime tale, but 'Me' is more than tired and can barely stay awake enough to fulfill the task. It's a scene parents will easily relate to. As 'Me' tries to appease Nicol, 'Me' steers into the wildest and oddest tales, but each time, Nicol wants to hear one more. 'Me' gives in until six stories are told.

The book is written as a back and forth between Nicol and a reader. The name of either 'Me' or Nicol introduce what each one says...a bit like a play. This offers all sorts of possibilities to the adult reading the book, when done as a read-aloud, but on the other hand, the style also requires more of the person reading it. For the right parents, it allows their talents to shine.

But then, this isn't a book for the youngest listeners, either. The text is more suited to ages 4/5 and up. The author has built in many 'yawns', which might seem redundant and weird, but actually, this is a clever way to use the 'yawns are contagious' phenomenon, which can help put listeners (and maybe readers) to sleep. Add the unique illustrations, which allow the quirkiness of 'Me's' tales to comes across with an original and strange flair, and it's not your usual bedtime read. It might not be everyone's thing, but it stands out and does the job in its own way.

And here they are...

The Author...
Mario Levrero was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1940 and died in 2004. Levrero was a photographer, bookseller, comics scriptwriter, humorist, crossword author, and creator of brain games. In his later years, he directed a literary workshop. Sleepy Stories is his first children’s book to be translated into English.

The Illustrator...
Diego Bianki is an illustrator, editor, and designer from Argentina. His work combines disciplines such as photography, design, illustration, and collage. Bianki is co-founder and artistic director of Pequeño Editor, a collective publishing project based in Buenos Aires that specializes in illustrated books. For his illustrations, he has won the 2013 Bologna New Horizons Prize for the book Diccionario para armar, the Konex Career Illustration Prize, and the 2012 Illustration Prize from the Venezuelan Banco del Libro for the book Candombe fiebre de carnaval. He has also won two White Ravens, awarded by Munich’s Internationale Jugendbibliothek.

The Translator...
Alicia López is a translator and sculptor. She grew up in San José, Costa Rica and currently lives in California.

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