Little Mabel is an expert at not going to sleep. She knows all the best bedtime-avoiding excuses. “I’m thirsty.” “I need to use the bathroom.” “Will you tell me a story?” Luckily, Mom’s quiver of bedtime tales includes the story of the Fae Queen, who paints children’s dreams and can only visit when their eyes are closed. Inspired by Mercutio’s soliloquy in Romeo & Juliet, in which he details how the tiny fairy queen influences people’s dreams as she passes by in her flying chariot, the soothing story evokes images of an ant in a worn gray coat and a hazelnut-shell chariot with a roof of grasshopper wings. Told in lyrical language that adults will also appreciate, the story helps parents get their kids to sleep.
Reviewing Henry Herz picture books has become a family activity here at Casa Librarian. While at first it was only my six-year-old daughter Emma helping me “eviewer” them, this time my four-year-old Cat decided she wanted in on the fun. So what follows is a collaborative review with my girls, including pictures drawn by the girls inspired by the story.
Mabel and the Queen of Dreams is a cute bedtime story inspired by Shakespeare’s description of the fairy queen Mab. The first few pages made me laugh, because they were really familiar. Mabel’s excuses to not go to sleep are all of the ones Cat tries on us every night as well. While the Queen’s journey across Mabel’s body echoes Queen Mab’s journey in the scene from Romeo and Juliet quoted at the end of the book, it also reminded me of a mindfulness exercise to relax your body. And for a bedtime story that is a very useful feature.
The illustrations by Lisa Woods are delightful and have a dainty feel to them. What I really liked about them are the way they incorporate Mabel’s surroundings and actions into the dream elements from the story Mabel’s mum tells her.
When I asked Emma what she thought of the story she said she really liked it and that the pictures were pretty. Her favourite illustration was the one on the final page of the book where we actually see the Fae Queen. And if she could put in a request, she’d want to have the mermaid dream the Queen paints for one of the children in the book. Cat thought the book was fun and liked the illustration of all the various dreams the Queen painted — she called them dream windows — the most.
This book was provided for review by the publisher.