The Children’s Book Review | November 18, 2019
JUSTINE AVERY is an award-winning author who loves writing stories for all sorts of readers. She was born in America but grew up—and is still growing up—all over the world as a natural explorer with a curiosity for all things. She’s jumped out of airplanes, off of very high bridges, and into shark-infested waters—to name a few adventures. And books are her favorite adventures of all.
The Children’s Book Review: What Wonders Do You See … When You Dream? is a sweet picture book that aims to help young readers find the alluring promise of what sleep can bring. What inspired you to write it?
Justine Avery: The original inspiration for the story was catching that beautiful, natural smile that appears on an infant’s face while they sleep. Before they even learn to smile socially—returning smiles to us when we smile at them—their smile appears in their sleep. I’m fascinated by that: what might they be dreaming about when so very young? That’s where the question, the book’s title, came from. And I always start with the smallest notion like that, then the story evolves from there.
Your book shows readers that sleeping is indeed something to look forward to! This is a refreshing changeup from the typical scared-of-the-dark drama that often shows up in bedtime stories. What do you hope young readers and their parents will take away from reading your book?
First, I hope they have a wonderful experience reading the story together. Then, I hope it inspires new thoughts and questions for them to share together and discover about each other. We spend so much of our lives sleeping, yet we tend to give it so little thought!
The narrative encourages kids to take time to transition from their busy days with a familiar routine of packing up toys, donning PJs and brushing teeth, while also making sure that the readers notice the wonders in their lives—encouraging their imaginations to soar once they settle in with a relaxed mind. How did you manage to find this lovely blend of normalcy and whimsicality in your writing?
I think that’s the key ingredient in my writing style, for anything I write. It’s my own perspective on life, the world around us, shining through. There’s magic in the mundane, wonders hidden among the ordinary. If we take the time to notice.
It’s true! Your own energetic wonder of what the world can hold for you if you choose to seek it out really does shine through. From where do you think your own personal curiosity of the world stems?
That’s the easiest question to answer of all. My curiosity stems from a life of travel. My father was in the military and my childhood was spent moving—and road-tripping—all over the US and outside of it. My mother made a point to ensure my younger brother and I were comfortable with being uprooted by educating us about the new part of the world we would be living in and some of the new things there to be excited about. My love of travel and exploring new places and cultures only grew as I grew older.
Blissfully playful illustrations in pretty mauves and blues combine with the charming story. Can you share with us how you came to work with illustrator Liuba Syrotiuk?
A friend in publishing helped in seeking out artists freelancing in illustration. We searched for those most interested in the project and inspired by the story concept and whose artistic style best captured the themes. Early on, I realized painting with watercolors captured a dreamy tone very well. Liuba’s natural talent in the medium was apparent, and when I invited her to sketch and paint some sample pages, it was very obvious her own imagination was a perfect match for the story.
What did the collaboration process look like?
Liuba really clicked with the project. Her initial concept ideas with the color scheme and two young characters seemed meant for this book—and that was after I viewed the ideas presented by several other very talented watercolorists. She would sketch her ideas page by page, and each and every one of them was the perfect representation of the tone and events I wanted to portray with my words.
The soft lines of the watercolor images work so well to convey a dreamy experience. Which illustration do you consider to be your favorite piece of artwork from the book? Why?
My favorite painting from the book is the very first two-page spread, the opening two pages of the story. The sun itself has a cheeky smile—or maybe it’s beginning to slip off to sleep?—and that sky stretching across the pages is magical, filled with brilliant color and sparkle, like the stuff that dreams are made of.
What has been the best reaction from a reader, so far?
There has been some truly wonderful responses from parents and children. What I love most is how the ideas in the book have prompted new conversations. Parents have asked their children what they dream about for the first time and the children have been excited about sharing!
Why do you think there can never be enough books about bedtime?
For one, young kids notoriously rebel against bedtime. The world’s just too exciting for them, filled with new learning every moment. Parents will always be looking for ways to make the bedtime routine more smooth, while kids will always wish for “just one more story” to delay having to go to sleep!
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
I’m very happy to be invited to share my books with The Children’s Book Review and your readers! I would love to hear more about their personal experiences reading What Wonders Do You See… When You Dream? with the children in their lives.
Written by Justine Avery
Illustrated by Liuba Syrotiuk
Publisher’s Synopsis: The day has ended. Hasn’t it been splendid? But now, it’s time—to be sure—for an entirely different adventure.
This is an invitation to a new nighttime ritual, a going-to-bed book that reminds us all that bedtime can be the most wonderful time of all …
The spellbinding style and alluring rhythm of Justine Avery’s writing are brought to life by Liuba Syrotiuk’s dreamlike watercolor illustrations to inspire children and adults to set aside the day’s excitement and drift into the adventure of sleep itself.
What Wonders Do You See … When You Dream? encourages calm and creativity, relaxation and imagination, and welcomes young and old alike to the blissful, magical time of bedtime.
“This picture book shows readers that sleeping is indeed something to look forward to! That’s a definite plus for us! The fantastical feel is sure to inspire young dreamers and explorers.” — The Children’s Book Review
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Suteki Creative | October 17, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1948124225
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This interview—Justine Avery Discusses What Wonders Do You See … When You Dream?—was conducted between Justine Avery and Bianca Schulze. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with Author Interview, Bedtime Stories, Justine Avery, Picture Book, and Rhyming Text.