April 23, 2012

Charlotte Jane Battles Bedtime

Charlotte Jane Battles Bedtime
By Myra Wolfe
Illustrated by Maria Monescillo
No Author / Illustrator Sites
3-4 Preschool Primary Harcourt 32 pp.
978-0152061500 Hardcover $16.99

Charlotte Jane Battles Bedtime is a fabulous read, with a feisty protagonist and a straightforward but cleverly executed message.  Charlotte Jane is born into a family of pirates. Even as a baby her parents could see that she has lots of "oomph," a fact born out by the illustration of her parents (dad has an eyepatch and mom a saucy bandana) smiling over the howling Charlotte. Charlotte Jane grows and so does her oomph. Soon both are sturdy and bold, and bent on getting "all of the juice" out the day. But sleep is not juicy, so she battles bedtime until one night, she doesn't go to sleep at all. The cost of her victory is high - as a result, Charlotte Jane loses her "oomph". Though her parents look everywhere, including the neighbor's recycling bin, her oomph remains missing. But then, while glaring at her bed, Charlotte Jane realizes that sleep might be "for landlubbers" but dreams, particularly piratical dreams, can be "rip-roarers," so Charlotte Jane dreams and wakes up with her formidable oomph in tact.

There are a lot of elements that make Charlotte Jane Battles Bedtime so good. The dialogue sprinkled with pirate-isms is just plain fun (Charlotte Jane refers to her parents as "me buckos" and her father calls her his "little doubloon"), the illustrations are clever, (Charlotte Jane and her parents live in a boat-shaped house in an otherwise regular neighborhood, hinting at the possibility that Charlotte Jane's imagination may be at work on the pirate theme) and the story is well-paced and tight. Especially nice was the fact that Charlotte Jane finds the solution to her problem by herself - she learns that sleep feeds her oomph and that "hearty" dreams are a good excuse to sleep - without authorial moralizing. Charlotte Jane Battles Bedtime is one of the most original bedtimes stories I've recently read. Great for storytime and bedtime and any time in between, this is one story with formidable oomph.

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