cover image Dreaming: A Countdown to Sleep

Dreaming: A Countdown to Sleep

Elaine Greenstein. Arthur A. Levine Books, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-439-06302-9

Beginning with ""Ten/ silent houses,/ everyone sleeping"" and ending with a lone swan and a wish for ""sweet dreams,"" this quietly beguiling counting book is handsomely designed and illustrated. Each painting floats on a midnight blue background, as does the accompanying minimal text (in a sophisticated touch, the text and the corresponding numeral form a diamond shape). Each page previews the forthcoming number. For example, the painting of ""nine/ trees bending/ in windy yards"" includes eight scattered leaves; on the next page, these are featured as ""eight/ leaves airborne,/ whirling, swirling."" Greenstein's (Mrs. Rose's Garden) text is lilting and serene, but the enchanting, dreamlike paintings steal the show. As in Van Gogh's Starry Night, the moon radiates a whirlpool of blues, and curling eddies of light fill the night sky. Following the ""countdown to sleep,"" the book includes a double-page painting of all the things previously seen--10 houses, six fish, three foxes, etc. Oddly, the new landscape rearranges the initial objects, so that trees and newly redecorated houses appear in different places than when first shown. Nonetheless, ""almost sleeping"" children will find the moon's mysterious face comforting and radiant, almost like a guardian angel. Ages 3-7. (Mar.)