A child’s first sleepover can be fraught with worry. Their usual routines are disrupted in a new house surrounded by new things and with new adults at the helm. Author-illustrator Julie Fortenberry expertly captures these concerns in Darcy’s First Sleepover, a sensitive, empathetic look at one girl’s first sleepover success.
This gently paced story spends the first three spreads establishing the routines at Darcy’s home. She has a favorite pair of pajamas (with polka dots!) and brushes her teeth with strawberry toothpaste. Little Cat, her favorite plush toy, keeps Darcy company, and before bed, her dad reads a story about Little Cat to her. He also regularly leaves the kitchen light on as Darcy falls asleep.
After a visit to her cousin’s house, Darcy is invited to spend the night. She agrees but is soon unsettled by the new surroundings and unexpected routines. There’s peppermint toothpaste and no Little Cat, and Darcy is troubled. The wind at the window in the middle of the night doesn’t help, but when Darcy sees the moon shine on her, just as it shines on Little Cat in her favorite book, she finally falls asleep. The book about Little Cat has a happy ending, and perhaps Darcy’s story will too.
Fortenberry tenderly and accurately captures the worrisome elements of a first sleepover: missing a favorite stuffed animal, a borrowed nightgown, an unfamiliar and “scratchy” sleeping bag that smells “like old leaves.” Darcy is surprised to learn that her cousin is even allowed to eat in her bedroom.
The characters’ body language and facial expressions communicate a great deal of emotion. When Darcy is awake as her cousin sleeps peacefully next to her during the night, her eyes are wide and her hands clutch the sleeping bag. The next morning, Darcy’s sense of triumph feels well earned.
This story about the courage it takes for some children to make their way through their first sleepover will resonate with many readers. Way to go, Darcy!