“The longest journey,” Swedish diplomat Dag Hammarskjöld once remarked, “is the journey inward.” In The Dinglebeast Needs to Sleep, brought to us by children’s author and illustrator Catherine Dawgert and independent publisher Woodland Way, we are invited to begin such a journey, accompanied, as sometimes such journeys require, by a furry and furious beast. The Dinglebeast.
The Dinglebeast, we are told as the story begins, is tired. She needs to sleep. But the monkeys chatter and the birds jibber jabber. “How could she sleep with all that noise?” we are asked. The Dinglebeast roars and scatters the creatures of the jungle, but then she could not sleep in the quiet and she feels bad for scaring all the animals from their homes. So, intriguingly, she traveled. And thus we begin with the Dinglebeast an extraordinary quest across vast landscapes in search of that bit of inner quiet that might let her (and us) sleep.
Sparse in text (to the extent that some pages have no text at all), The Dinglebeast Needs to Sleep is one of those stories that is simply told, in a manner that leaves room for the reader to think and imagine. For all that is unsaid in words, we are allowed to dwell within the astounding illustrations that carry the story. Catherine Dawgert creates brilliant, spectacular landscapes as we travel with the Dinglebeast. The backgrounds utilize a paper marbling technique (think floating inks and paints that are then imprinted on paper), with the marbled paper swirls and shapes cut and placed against one another to create landscapes that could be from exotic, distant lands or perhaps some periphery of our inner imagination.
The characters are whimsical, fun, humorous. The Dinglebeast carries with her a small red blanket that seems to morph from security blanket to traveling pouch to shawl to skirt to parachute to a boat’s sail to a hammock and a beach blanket. Traveling with the Dinglebeast (though not mentioned in the text at all) are three intrepid explorers who seem to connect us with the extraordinary world that the Dinglebeast inhabits. These characters and other elements of the illustrations are set against the marble backdrop much as pieces in a collage. It’s the sort of artwork that might inspire a young child to create illustrations of her own.
In the end, as the journey takes the Dinglebeast to a deserted island, we see the Dinglebeast roar at the waves but then come to a fruitful realization. She begins instead to play and swim and dive in them. All until the tide went out. And did the Dinglebeast finally find her sleep?
You and your young reader can find out. This book is a picture book that should inspire young ones (ages 3+) and adults alike. Plus, it is a delight for the eyes and a salve for the imagination. We love that the publisher Woodland Way states as its mission that it publishes stories that foster kindness, respect, empathy, resilience, and laughter. There’s a sense of connectedness to these books. We love also that the Dinglebeast story can be both playful and yet poignant. For the older ones among us, we come to understand that we are the Dinglebeast and, in inspired moments, we also realize how remarkable this journey is, how silly we have been and how simple and yet difficult it is to find that moment of inner peace.
The Dinglebeast Needs to Sleep has
received the Inkspokes Select Book Award.
Catherine Dawgert is the author and illustrator of The Dinglebeast Needs to Sleep, Even in My Monster Hat and A, B, C, Disgusting. She is the winner of the 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award Gold Medal for Best Illustrator. These books are published by Woodland Way, an independent publisher of children’s stories that foster kindness, respect, empathy, resilience, and laughter. More information on the books and author-illustrator Catherine Dawgert may be found on the website for Woodland Way. The books, illustration prints and games may also be purchased directly from Woodland Way.