July 9th, 2010

a book at her side

Maybe I'll Sleep in the Bathtub Tonight

While I was at dinner in D.C. last Monday after the ALA Poetry Blast, I received a wonderful gift from Sterling Books. Turns out they brought along copies of Debbie Levy's newest picture book, Maybe I'll Sleep in the Bathtub Tonight: And Other Funny Bedtime Poems, illustrated by Stephanie Buscema, which Debbie handed out - and signed! - for those present. Thank you, Sterling, for the book, and thank you, Debbie, for the gift of the copy, as well as for the contents of the book itself!

The book contains 20 poems, and I was lucky enough to hear Debbie read a sampling from this book earlier last Monday evening. Debbie put on her fuzzy pink robe and pulled out a "tub" containing 20 rubber duckies, each with a word written on its underside to go along with the poems in the book. The first poem in the book, "Sleep Tight", was one whose number came up, and one of my favorites in the book:

Sleep Tight
by Debbie Levy

"Sleep tight tonight," my mother called,
as I lay down to rest.
"Sleep tight?" I wondered silently,
but followed her request.

I squeezed my eyes shut,
clenched my hands into fists,
clamped my jaw like a trap,
crimped my toes into twists.

Tucked my knees, squinched my nose,
ground my teeth, smushed my feet,
wrapped my folded-up self
in a fitted bedsheet.

"Sleep tight last night?" my mother asked.
"Like last year's shoes," I cried.
"The ones with laces knotted up
that will not come untied."

My rested mother looked confused
but went to poor our juice,
while I unkinked myself and vowed:
Tonight I will sleep loose.

Isn't that fantastic? I love how the first, fourth and fifth stanzas were in a hymn meter (akin to that used by Emily Dickinson), but the second and third followed their own anapestic scheme.

The collection includes poems about brothers in bunk beds that sounds like real life, and a poem ("More Night Clothes") that is pure silliness ("Shawn goes to bed with a shoe on his head/for sleepwalking while upside-down.") There's something akin to a retelling of "The Princess and the Pea" (but not), a suspenseful "something in the closet" poem, a funny poem about thumb (and toe!) sucking, and this poem that reminds me of times when I read to my children after a long work day when they were infants and toddlers. It's accompanied by an adorable illustration showing a mother curled up asleep while the wide-awake child looks on. (While neither of the illustrations for the poems I've mentioned is on her site, you can see many of the illustrations (sans text) at Stephanie Buscema's website.

Look Who's Sleeping
by Debbie Levy

Won't you please sit with me here in my room?
If you stay, I will fall asleep better.
You don't have to sing or to read or to talk,
not a sentence, a word, or a letter.

In just a few minutes, I'll be deep in my dreams.
You'll get back to the word you're ignoring --
I hate to disturb you.
I'm happy you're here --
but shouldn't I be the one who is snoring?

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