Book Review: The Sleepwalkers

by Hazel Buys


Text and Illustrations by Viviane Schwarz

In this graphic novel, a child calls a champion to vanquish monsters under the bed and dreams so bad sleep won’t come, by putting a letter under her pillow. A dog and two sheep arrive who spirit the dreamer away to a safe house where a third sheep waits. The sheep and dog give the dreamer a strategy to use the next time the nightmare comes, giving her control of the dream. The sheep, however, are ready to retire so they create three apprentices whom they train to take their places. The apprentices must learn to work together to conquer their own fears before they can take on the work of the sleepwalkers. The comic book format uses a loosely drawn and subtly colored illustration style to seamlessly blend images and words. The narrative operates successfully on several levels as the sleepwalkers demonstrate how to conquer fears in dreams and in life. Visual references to the power of writing as a coping mechanism (one of the apprentices is a pen nib on a bird body), the affirmation of putting on a brave front (the bear apprentice creates a mask that helps him feel powerful) along with the strategy of turning a monster into an object of ridicule, create a faceted approach to conquering bad dreams and monsters that children will relate to. The hint at the end of the book that the sleepwalkers are as old as human history is a deft, delightful finish to the story. (Candlewick Press, 2013, ISBN: 978-0-7636-6230-1).

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