When the World Is Dreaming


  • When the World Is Dreaming
  • written by Rita Gray
  • illustrated by Kenard Pak
  • published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Reading this book to my kids at bedtime the other night, my daughter was immediately smitten by the protagonist. And it’s easy to see why. With her unkempt hair flying free in every direction and playing home to a stray leaf, my daughter proclaimed, “That’s me! A little outdoorsy tomboy!”

Be still my heart.

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When the World Is Dreaming is a beautiful bedtime story told in verse. That little outdoorsy girl is exploring nature, wondering what the animals dream about when they’re asleep, and then wishing all the animals to stay “safe and warm. Dream until the light of morn.”

Rita Gray’s poetry flows off the tongue (especially the four-line verses each animal gets to express its dream), which makes the book perfect for bedtimes. And Kenard Pak’s artwork is lovely and lends the whole thing a slightly ethereal beauty that’s entirely appropriate for a going-to-sleep book. It also heavily recalls the great Leo Lionni, which is never a bad thing.

A shadow moving over ground,
slinking near without a sound.
With my tree bark boat and my pea pod oar,
I leave that cat behind on shore!

Our only complaint is that the book (obviously) focuses on the animals; we would’ve loved to have seen more of the little girl. But that’s hardly a criticism. This one comes highly recommended.

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(Disclosure: HMH provided me with a review copy of this book. All opinions remain my own.)

Jamie is a publishing/book nerd who makes a living by wrangling words together into some sense of coherence. He's the founder and owner of The Roarbots and also a contributor to Syfy Wire, StarWars.com, and GeekDad. On top of that, he hosts The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, which celebrates creativity in popular culture, science, and technology by talking to a wide variety of people who contribute to it.