Published 1962 by Random House
Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book takes us through many different lands meetings many different creatures as they go through the process of falling asleep. We start out in the County of Keck where there is a very small bug that goes by the name of Van Vleck and he is yawning so wide you can see down his neck.
The yawn catches and spreads through the land to some Biffer-Baum Birds that are building their nest to rest for the night. We also meet some Herk-Heimer Sisters that are brushing their teeth under the Herk-Heimer Falls. Then we meet even stranger creatures and learn the strange ways that they sleep.
The narrator informs us that they count sleepers using the Audio-Telly-o-Tally-o Count. It is a machine in a plexiglass dome that listens and looks into everyone’s home and lets a Biggel-Ball drop for each creature that falls asleep.
Then we learn the different things that creatures do while they’re asleep. Such as talking in your sleep:
“Do you talk in your sleep…?
It’s a wonderful sport
And I have some news of this sort to report.
The World-Champion Sleep-Talkers, Jo and Mo Redd-Zoff,
Have just gone to sleep and they’re talking their heads off.
For fifty-five years, now, each chattering brother
Had babbled and gabbled all night to the other.”
Or sleep walking:
“Do you walk in your sleep…?
I just had a report
Of some interesting news of this popular sport.
Near Finnigan Fen, there’s a sleepwalking group
Which not only walks, but it walks a-la-hoop!
Every night they go miles. Why, they walk to such length
They have to keep eating to keep up their strength.”
There is also a tiger-like creature that sets an alarm by biting his tail, which is so long that it takes all night to travel to his brain so that he yells, “Ouch!” and wakes up.
We continue to be introduced to many different kinds of sleepers until the number of sleepers is past the millions and into the billions!
“They’re sleeping on steps! And on strings! And on floors!
In mailboxes, ships, and the keyholes of doors!
Every worm on a fishhook is safe for the night.
Every fish in the sea is too sleepy to bite.
Every whale in the ocean has turned off his spout.
Every light between here and Far Foodle is out.
And now, adding things up, we are way beyond billions!
Our Who’s-Asleep-Score is now up in the Zillions!”
Then we see a page full of sleeping creatures all with their eyes closed and smiles on their faces, nestled together. The narrator gives us the exact number.
Nine trillion and two
Creatures are sleepling!
How about you?”
The book ends with a empty blue page with two simple words on it.
Seuss does an amazing job of grabbing children’s attention and getting them excited about meeting new creatures, but he is also showing them constant images of creatures either sleeping or getting ready for bed. He is subtly teaching children good behavior for bedtime.
Preparing for bed: Making up your bed, brushing your teeth, putting away your things, and setting an alarm.
He also introduces children to different conditions and habits that are related to sleeping.
Sleep conditions: Yawning, Sleep talking, Sleep walking, Snoring, and Dreams
The story starts with individual species and builds up to a climax with an entire building and a town full of different creatures sleeping. Then you suddenly flip the page and it’s one solid color with just a moon and a light in a window representing your house. You reach a visual calm after the busy pages of illustrations. Then the resolution comes and there are no drawings, just “Good night” written in white, surrounded by calm turquoise, leaving your mind free to drift to sleep.
Dedicated to Marie and Bert Hupp. I was not able to find out who they are or why the book was dedicated to them.
Random House requested a “big book” to celebrated the 25th anniversary of Seuss’ first book, And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street. Seuss spent a very long time on it and had several pages of random thoughts and snippets to work with.
“One minute of sleep is worth 3,000–… Sleep’s better than butter…I’d rather (be sleeping/have sleep) than–…Longest sleep Shortest sleep…They are snoring in throats, boats, goats, notes, thousands of throats…The sweet sounding notes of goats snoring in boats…From all over the world, The great Snooze News comes pouring: Everywhere, more and more creatures are snoring.”
This is Seuss’ first book to have “Dr.Seuss’s” as part of the official title. The illustrations are filled out with Seuss’ three usual colors; red, yellow, and turquoise. Deep purplish-maroon was added on a few pages, mostly as a backdrop. Orange is only used once for Moose Juice and green is only used once for Goose Juice. They do not appear anywhere else in the book adding emphasis to that page.
The 50th anniversary cover is very similar to the original cover which is at the beginning of this post. The white background was changed to the turquoise that is frequently used within the book and the hills they’re standing on were changed to more of a grey. Many of Seuss’ covers are illustrations that are made specifically to be the cover and are not found within the story. This cover, however, is found on the third page with only a few changes.
For later editions another image from the book was used. For the newest cover (with the candy cane spine) the image was inverted, with the pole pointing to the right, perhaps intended to invite the reader to open the book.
The inside cover (called end sheets) has a lovely illustration with one simple instructions:
My favorite part is not so much a specific quote, but just the concept of biting your tail to set an alarm because it’s so long it’ll take all night for the pain to travel to your brain and wake you up.
My favorite image is of the little red creature, named Jedd, in bed sleeping on pom poms. It just looks so amazingly comfortable.
Thanks for reading,
Jack St. Rebor