A little girl gets ready for bed at night. She and her pup are so very sleepy… until she spies a SPIDER in her room! GAH! Stricken with fear, she goes on the offensive, her imagination going wild with thoughts of giant, spider-removing devices and huge spiders coming for retribution. When she finally traps the spider under a glass, she realizes that the spider? It’s rather itsy-bitsy after all. And it looks pretty terrified. Putting herself in the spider’s shoes, she realizes that the spider isn’t here to rain havoc down on her and her dog; it probably just wants to get back home, or make a home in a warm, comfortable spot. Author Mags DeRoma says that Awake is about coming face-to-face with ‘otherness'”; an idea more of our children (and adults, quite frankly) should sit down and take a minute to think about. When something – or someone – appears that isn’t within our usual realm of understanding or experience, we often react with fear and aggression. If we take a moment to put ourselves in someone else’s position, to see the world through another’s eyes, we may – like the little girl in Awake – rethink our initial, knee-jerk reactions. Awake is also about facing one’s fears and growing from the experience. The cut paper artwork gives depth and texture to the story, with fun details and character expressions, and gorgeous cityscapes, including a gatefold that brings home the true size of the little spider compared to the sprawling city outside the girl’s window. Endpapers bring the reader in, with heartwarming messages like “open eyes, open mind, open heart, to be awake”, and instructions on relocating a “surprise guest”.
This is Mags DeRoma’s debut picture book, and I’m excited to see where else she will bring us in the future. Visit her webpage for more artwork and a look at other books she’s illustrated. Add Awake to your social-emotional learning collections, and consider displaying with Jacob Grant’s Bear’s Scare and Bear Out There, and Bethany Barton’s I’m Trying to Love Spiders.