Title: Are You Awake?
Author/Illustrator: Sophie Blackall
Publisher: Henry Holt
Word Count: 250 (estimate)
I love dialogue. (Just ask my husband — he says I always want to have a conversation!) Seriously though, having a background and training in stage acting, I’ve read (and written!) my fair share of scripts, which of course, are all dialogue-based. When I sit down to work on my children’s books, what I often hear is the conversation between the characters.
That’s why I was delighted when I came across Are You Awake? This little book is written entirely in dialogue. In fact, there isn’t even one dialog tag (“he said” or “she said.”) Different fonts and texts colors are used to distinguish between the two characters — a mother and her young son, Edward, who wakes up in the middle of the night and will not go back to sleep.
When dialogue is done well, each character has such a unique voice that the tags really aren’t necessary. In this book, you can almost always tell the child’s voice because he’s usually the one asking all of the questions, as kids so often do.
The book starts with Edward asking if his mother is awake. She says “no,” but that doesn’t stop the onslaught of questions that come next. Here’s an excerpt with Edward’s words in bold typeface.
Why aren’t you awake?
Because I’m asleep.
Why are you asleep?
Because it’s still nighttime.
Why is it still nighttime?
Because the son hasn’t come up yet.
There is also a pattern to the book as well. Edward asks a number of “Why?” questions, and in the end, his mother’s answers almost always circle back to: “Because it’s still nighttime.”
Below is one of my favorite spreads.
Is Daddy awake?
I hope so?
Why do you hope so?
Because he’s flying a plane.
The dialogue alone without the pictures is enough to invoke the image of a wide-awake child, and the parent who desperately wants to be sleeping. By the end of the book, Mom gets wise and she starts asking Edward all of the questions.
. . . Do you like yellow?
Yes. It’s my favorite color.
Why is it your favorite color?
Because there are lots of yellow things.
What are some yellow things?
Bananas are yellow. And taxis. And I have a yellow rubber band.
If you’re looking for a study in how a book can be written entirely in dialogue, this is a great one to check out!
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