Listen to or download this article:

As a calming invitation to a new bedtime ritual, What Wonders Do You See … When You Dream? is a lyrically narrated and masterfully illustrated children’s book well intended to help youngsters wind down and prepare for the magical adventure of sleep. Here the graceful style and delicate rhythm of Justine Avery’s writing comes alive with artist Liuba Syrotiuk’s dreamy watercolor visions. The beautiful collaborative effort provides inspiration for young readers to set aside their day’s excitement and drift into an imaginative landscape of shut-eye.

Against an airy backdrop that moves from rolling green hills and the face of a smiling sleepy sun to swirling blue-mauve skies and a sprinkling of stars, the narrative follows a whimsical boy and girl getting ready for bed. They put their toys away, brush their teeth, get into their PJs, and then take a moment to stretch and relax. Ultimately, deep meditative breaths help calm their active minds in a mindful moment, and soon they can drift quietly into a blissful encounter with their dreams.

Avery writes with a wispy hand and a soothing, creative voice. While the rhyming verses and words may diverge from the traditional, such free-form stylings are pleasantly suited to the relaxing nature of the story. Additionally, she broadens the audience’s vocabulary with fun words like “niggles” and “sniggle” that are sure to entice.

While youngsters often struggle at bedtime with concerns about the dark or worried about monsters in the closet, Avery’s smart emphasis is on bedtime as “magical … wondrous” and “best when you’re feeling slumberous.” Here, funny bug-eyes beneath the bed and small furry mop-like creatures running about elicit a figment of charm and humor rather than fear. The story’s final question of What wonders do you see? reveals a moment for youngsters to point out images on the page, as well as igniting an opportunity for them to talk about their own personal dreams.

Syrotiuk’s gossamer watercolors awash with gentle hues and soft-edged lines provide a perfect accompaniment to Avery’s narrative. This fresh, straightforward design ideally punctuates the soothing, balm-like feel of the story. Skillfully rendered brushwork draws readers into a dreamscape enveloped in ribbons of color. It showcases an imagined world filled with flora and fauna, floating sea life and planets, balls of yarn, and a frisky calico cat that lends its playful presence throughout the book’s pages.

Mini watercolor portraits and bios of both the author and illustrator, along with a message about freely sharing this work, appear at the book’s end. This small detail adds a glowing touch to the book’s overall design.

In a truly artful and harmonious combination of words and imagery, the sometimes mundane or, more often, chaotic time of getting ready for bed aptly turns into a surprise adventure. Here’s the perfect story to lull antsy youngsters into imaginative sweet slumber and help them discover some remarkable secrets when they close their eyes and dream.

What Wonders Do You See … When You Dream? Won First Place in the CIBA 2019 Little Peeps Book Awards for Children’s Literature.