CM . . . . Volume XV Number 17. . . .April 17, 2009.
Sleeping Dragons All Around. 20th Anniversary Edition.
Sheree Fitch. Illustrated by Michele Nidenoff.
Halifax, NS: Nimbus, 2009.
32 pp., hardcover, $19,95.
Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 3-7.
Review by Valerie Nielsen.
There are sleeping dragons all around
And so I must tiptoe…
As I pass…
When there are sleeping dragons all around
I MUST be quiet
I must NOT make
The dragons are asleep
But I’m awake
I have GOT to get downstairs
For some Mocha
The 20th anniversary edition of Sheree Fitch’s well-loved picture book Sleeping Dragons All Around was published in time for Family Literacy Day in January of this year. This newly released edition will be sure to evoke a nostalgic thrill in today’s parents, many of whom will remember listening to and loving Fitch’s story-poem about a little girl tiptoeing past eight of the most eccentric dragons ever created.
Sheree Fitch is a deeply committed and incredibly talented poet and literacy educator. Anyone who has heard her read—Monkeys in the Kitchen, for instance, or Toes in My Nose, or Sleeping Dragons all Around—knows that she is the indisputable Queen of the Read-Aloud. These days, older readers can watch You Tube and enjoy a performance of Sleeping Dragons All Around given by the author prior to a recent trip to China.
Small listeners will certainly want to pick out their favourite dragon. Sheree Fitch’s imaginary beasts are bizarrely different and uniquely charming. They include Priscilla in pink pantaloons, green-haired Fagan who wears a star through his nose, Beelzebub who snoozes in the tub, Glump the WIMP, mathematically obsessed Pythagoras, Ching-Chung who hangs upside down in his ancestral gown, aged Jebediah who hums hymns, and Ms. Lindy Lean who teaches aerobics at the Y.D.C.A. What an octet!
Michele Nidenoff’s bright and bold illustrations are the perfect complement to Sheree Fitch’s exuberant “lipslippery” poem. Sleeping Dragons All Around is great fun to read aloud. Every page has just the right amount of repetition and variation of rhyme and meter to engage young listeners. The lively, musical cadence of the text fairly bounces off the page, begging for the sort of dynamics that the author gives to them as she reads her work. Alliterative language abounds, as do wonderfully chewy words like tabulates, infinitesimal, ancestral and gargantuan.
The author has read her books literally from sea to sea in Canada, as well as in the Himalayas, Uganda, Tanzania, Belize and Mexico. With 25 books to her credit (including an adult novel Kiss the Joy as it Flies published last year), Sheree Fitch is a Canadian literary treasure. Sleeping Dragons All Around is a must-have for anyone who has a reading relationship with a child between 3 and 7 years of age. Elementary school librarians should be delighted to be able to add this copy to their picture book collection, no matter whether or not the original is in tatters.
A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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