Tundra Telegram: Dream Books for your “Endless” TBR Pile

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we reflect on the topics that are currently running through our minds, and kindly recommend some books we think might mesmerize you.

After years of false starts and dashed hopes, fans of Neil Gaiman’s beloved and acclaimed The Sandman comic series finally got the chance to see the television adaptation when it premiered on Netflix this past weekend. Starring Tom Sturridge as Dream / Morpheus, Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death, Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer, and partially adapted by Gaiman himself, the series follows the king of dreams, as he escapes from captivity and attempts to restore order to his realm, called The Dreaming.

Of course, the best thing to do is to check out the collected editions of The Sandman, particularly the first two collections – Preludes and Nocturnes and The Doll’s House – that the series roughly adapts. But if you want more suggestions for books of all ages about sleeping and dream worlds, we’ve got some nighttime reading material for you!

PICTURE BOOKS

Though the Sandman television series demonstrates there are a few reasons to be afraid of the dark, A Bedtime Yarn by Nicola Winstanley and Olivia Chin-Mueller has an answer to that. Little bear Frankie is given a ball of yarn to hold when he goes to bed, and his mother will hold onto the other end in the next room, working it into a surprise for him. The yarn’s colors affect the dreams he has, and eventually he learns he’s always connected to the people he loves – even while asleep!

Basically the Neil Gaiman of picture books, Nicola Winstanley also penned The Pirate’s Bed, illustrated by Matt James, which gives young readers a view into the world of pirate dreams. That is, it does before the bed (who is wide awake while the pirate on top sleeps) is cast out to sea on his own during a shipwreck. Will a bed without a sleeper find happiness? Or will it feel somehow not whole?

If vivid dreams are what you want, you need Dream Animals by Emily Winfield Martin. Discover what your dream animal might be – a bear who invites you to make baked goods or some tea-partying mermaids? Dreams haven’t seemed this fun since Van Halen recorded 5150.

In the same vein, Sean Taylor and Anuska Allepuz’s The Dream Train features thirty lushly illustrated bedtime poems for and about sleepyheads of all kinds. The Sandman rarely delved into the dreams of ducks or bats like The Dream Train does, but maybe it should have?

If there’s one question the Sandman knows the answer to, it’s What Will You Dream of Tonight?, which is also a picture book by Frances Stickley and Anuska Allepuz (who must love dreams!). A parent wonders what their child will dream of: Deserts? Waterfalls? Dragon-filled caves? This is a creative tale of dreamtime adventures.

Keeping to the comic book roots of The Sandman, check out the Little Golden Book Trouble in the Dream Dimension by Dave Croatto and Shane Clester, featuring rival comic company character Doctor Strange as he protects the dream world from the villain Nightmare, devoted to spooking kids (and adults) as they snooze.

In You Byun’s Dream Friends, a young girl Melody has the most wonderful friend in her dreams, and they do a bunch of fantastical things together. But when Melody wakes up, she’s back in the real world where she has no friends. This all changes when her dream friend inspires her to take some actions to change her friend status in the real world. (But her dream friend also happens to be a massive sort of flying cat, which will be tough for her first real friend to live up to, IMHO.)

Though the series has not yet adapted the Sandman collection Dream Country, readers of the comic know that the issue “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” introduces Morpheus’s collab with William Shakespeare, and became the only comic book in history to win a World Fantasy Award. Accordingly, we recommend the new picture book,  William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, adapted by Georghia Ellinas and illustrated by Jane Ray, for the youngest audiences.

And like some sort of Australian Morpheus, the titular character in Robert Ingpen’s The Dream Keeper lives in the realm between being asleep and awake, and uses a number of tricks and traps to ensnare the wild creatures of our dreams before they can escape into reality.

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

Though he doesn’t quite have the powers of Morpheus, the protagonist of Julian, Dream Doctor by Ann Cameron and Ann Strugnell does his best to enter his father’s dreams to get him the perfect birthday gift. Julian wants to get his dad a birthday gift that he’s “always dreamed of.” So he creates a brainwave machine, communicates through the TV antenna’s signals, interrogates his father while asleep, and does whatever he can to secretly learn what his father’s dream is, even if it happens to be a nightmare!

The Dollhouse by Charis Cotter is not only just a space, an apostrophe, and an “s” away from the title of one of the Sandman books adapted for the show, it’s also a spooky, atmospheric story that weaves the dream world with the waking one. Alice’s parents split up and she moves with her mom when she becomes a live-in nurse for an older woman. Alice finds a dollhouse in the attic that’s a replica of the house they live in, and before she knows it, she wakes up to find a girl asleep next to her in her bed – a girl who exactly like one of the dolls from the dollhouse (I may never sleep again!).

The Bookshop of Dust and Dreams by Mindy Thompson mirrors the Sandman books in its belief in the (literal magic) power of art and literature. Poppy’s family owns the magic bookshop Rhyme and Reason, which is situated in WWII New York, but caters to customers from around the world and from the past and future. When her older brother threatens to break the most important rule among magic Booksellers, Poppy is caught in an impossible situation.

And, of course, a perfect companion to the Sandman series is Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller’s Nightmares! trilogy (illustrated by Karl Kwasny), and not just because the books have often been compared to another Gaiman creation, Coraline. Charlie Laird has a major problem: not only does he have trouble sleeping because of terrible nightmare, but his nightmares have started slipping out of his dreams and into the waking world of Cypress Creek. Charlie and his friends – in the original book, as well as The Sleepwalker Tonic and The Lost Lullaby – must face their fears and save their town.

YOUNG ADULT

You can’t even start to mention YA about dreams without talking about Cherie Dimaline’s Hunting by Stars. The follow-up to The Marrow Thieves, in which Indigenous people are being hunted across North America and placed residential schools to harvest their bone marrow. The reason: Indigenous people are still able to dream, an ability lost by everyone else, and this dreaming ability is believed to be housed in the marrow (something overlooked in Sandman!). This book follows seventeen-year-old French, who survived the first book, as he heads north with a group of other dreamers who try to build a new community – until the school Recruiters hunt him down.

It’s an older title, but Dream Girl by Lauren Mechling, is all about Claire Voyante, a fifteen-year-old girl whose dream visions become a lot clearer when she’s given a cameo necklace by her grandmother Kiki. What can she do next but solve madcap mysteries with her psychic sleeping powers?

And the techno-futuristic take on Sleeping Beauty, A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan, follows Rosalinda Fitzroy, in a chemically induced slumber in a stasis tube for 62 years until she is kissed awake. But the world Rose wakes to is the aftermath of an apocalyptic era that killed millions in which she’s seen as the long-lost heir to an interplanetary empire (that old story!).

Sweet dreams and happy reading!

Canadian Independent Bookstore Day 2022

Canadian Independent Bookstore Day is coming up on Saturday, April 30! Here are some of our fave books featuring bookstores. Show your fave indie some love this month and pick up one of these books from your local store!

Marty
By Rachel Noble
Illustrated by Zoey Abbott
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823446629 | Holiday House
Marty is a tiny green Martian who lives here on Earth. You’ve never noticed him before, because he is undercover . . . Marty wears disguises and studies human behavior in order to fit in. He is always watching, learning, and laughing. And then one day, after much preparation, Marty gets a job! He loves to watch his customers, and he even makes some friends. But Marty knows he can never reveal his secret. Humans are terrified of Martians. When his cover gets blown, Marty needs somewhere safe to go. Who will see beyond his strange, green looks to show him kindness?

Over the Shop
By JonArno Lawson
Illustrated by Qin Leng
48 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536201475 | Candlewick
A lonely little girl and her grandparent need to fill the run-down apartment in their building. But taking over the quarters above their store will mean major renovations for the new occupants, and none of the potential renters can envision the possibilities of the space – until one special couple shows up. With their ingenuity, the little girl’s big heart, and heaps of hard work, the desperate fixer-upper begins to change in lovely and surprising ways. In this bustling wordless picture book, JonArno Lawson’s touching story and Qin Leng’s gentle illustrations capture all angles of the building’s transformation, as well as the evolving perspectives of the girl and her grandparent. A warm and subtly nuanced tale, Over the Shop throws open the doors to what it means to accept people for who they are and to fill your home with love and joy.

This Book is Not For You!
By Shannon Hale
Illustrated by Tracy Subisak
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984816856 | Dial Books
Stanley’s thrilled for bookmobile day – until the old man at the window refuses to lend him the story he wants, all because it features a girl. “Girl books” are only for girls, the book man insists, just like cat books are only for cats and robot books are only for robots. But when a dinosaur arrives at the bookmobile and successfully demands a book about ponies, Stanley musters the courage to ask for the tale he really wants – about a girl adventurer fighting pirates on the open seas. By speaking up, Stanley inspires the people, cats, robots, and goats around him to read more stories outside their experiences and enjoy the pleasure of a good book of their choosing.

For older readers:

The Bookshop of Dust and Dreams
By Mindy Thompson
336 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593110379  | Viking BFYR
It’s 1944 Sutton, NY, and Poppy’s family owns and runs, Rhyme and Reason, a magical bookshop that caters to people from all different places and time periods. Though her world is ravaged by World War II, customers hail from the past and the future, infusing the shop with a delightful mix of ideas and experiences. Poppy dreams of someday becoming shopkeeper like her father, though her older brother, Al, is technically next in line for the job. She knows all of the rules handed down from one generation of Bookseller to the next, especially their most important one: shopkeepers must never use the magic for themselves. But then Al’s best friend is killed in the war and her brother wants to use the magic of the shop to save him. With her father in the hospital suffering from a mysterious illness, the only one standing between Al and the bookstore is Poppy. Caught between her love for her brother and loyalty to her family, she knows her brother’s actions could have devastating consequences that reach far beyond the bookshop as an insidious, growing Darkness looms. This decision is bigger than Poppy ever dreamed, and the fate of the bookshops hangs in the balance.

We Are Inevitable
By Gayle Forman
288 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780425290804 | Viking BFYR
Aaron Stein used to think books were miracles. But not anymore. Even though he spends his days working in his family’s secondhand bookstore, the only book Aaron can bear to read is one about the demise of the dinosaurs. It’s a predicament he understands all too well, now that his brother and mom are gone and his friends have deserted him, leaving Aaron and his shambolic father alone in a moldering bookstore in a crusty mountain town where no one seems to read anymore. So when Aaron sees the opportunity to sell the store, he jumps at it, thinking this is the only way out. But he doesn’t account for Chad, a “best life” bro with a wheelchair and way too much optimism, or the town’s out-of-work lumberjacks taking on the failing shop as their pet project. And he certainly doesn’t anticipate meeting Hannah, a beautiful, brave musician who might possibly be the kind of inevitable he’s been waiting for. All of them will help Aaron to come to terms with what he’s lost, what he’s found, who he is, and who he wants to be, and show him that destruction doesn’t inevitably lead to extinction; sometimes it leads to the creation of something entirely new.