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Sleep, Merel, Sleep, your father tends the sheep. Your mother shakes the dreamland tree and from it fall sweet dreams for thee, sleep, Merel, sleep.
Silke Stein has woven a surreal tale with lyrical prose that brings the reader into a weird and dreamlike fantasy world. This story follows Merel – an angry eight year old girl who has been kind of neglected by her parents following the birth of her sick baby brother. The book starts with Merel throwing a tantrum in her bed to try to get the attention of her parents. The only attention she received, unfortunately, was from Merel’s Sleep — the entity that makes sleep possible for her — who did not react well to the continued tantrums and angrily dropped his violin off and left. And now she must embark on an adventure to return the violin to her Sleep or she will be awake forever. Along the way she meets a myriad of characters, from a sleeping king to a saleswoman for the Sandman’s finest.
Merel is brave, and comes to terms with both her brother and her parent’s being overwhelmed during her adventure. I do wish that there had been more of a lead-in to her journey; the book went from her meeting Morph in her room to her leaving her house in the middle of the night and interacting with adults three days later. I know that this is fantasy, and part of the allure of this particular book is the dreamlike narrative, but it does bother me a little bit since this is a middle-grade book. Something just doesn’t sit well with me that I think may have been negated by this particular segue being navigated differently.
Overall I enjoyed this story; Stein has a vast imagination. I think that children who have felt the jealousy of no longer being the only child and the resentment toward their younger sibling will relate with the anger and frustration that Merel experiences. The various characters that she meets on her adventure were so imaginative, and I laughed at the pea bit (See the excerpt below)! Admittedly I felt the ending was a bit abrupt, but it is likely written this way to be left open for interpretation. Was she dreaming all along? But what was with the conductor? So many questions!!!
The design of the eBook itself is lovely and deserves additional praise. The design of the new chapter pages is lovely but not overdone, and I really love the cover artwork a lot! I have a feeling a print of this book would be gorgeous.
ARC provided by the author, Silke Stein, in exchange for my honest review. Thank you so much for allowing me to join Merel on her adventure to find her sleep!
On a plateau, a little above her, she saw a group of small people flinging objects to the ground, like children tossing marbles. It was one of her favorite games. She never shied away from playing for keeps. Her wins were stored under her bed in one of Granjo’s cigar boxes. Merel loved the turquoise cat eyes best and the strawberry-red solids with the milky swirls.
She smiled. Maybe I can join them and have some fun. And, of course, ask for the way.
One of the children spotted her. Merel waved.
“Princess Pea, there she comes!” one of them shouted, and they all chortled.
A plump guy with frizzy copper hair lifted his arm and hurled something at her: a tiny gray-green ball. It was not heavy, but there came another one, and another one, they all were throwing them now.
A shower of light-weight bullets bounced off her body. Peas, these were peas. They pelted her with dried peas.
“Hey that’s nasty. Stop it!” Merel held up her arms in defense.
“Na na, na NA na! Princess Pea is mad at us,” yelled one of the group.
“I guess Humpty Dumpty is up for a great fall,” bawled another.
“Why are you so mean?” Merel hollered.
The little people snickered. Out of their pockets, they pulled pointy green hats and put them on. They picked up jars from the ground and emptied the content downhill while they chanted with mocking voices: “And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put her together again.” Cackling loudly, they ran up the hill and vanished over the top.
What was that? Merel wondered, frozen to the spot.
Something moved towards her, a green wave. She gasped – peas, an avalanche of peas. Already the bunny faces on her feet were downed by the gush of legumes.