With beautiful prose and engaging, colorful art, Every Dreaming Creature manages to be exciting and entertaining, yet ultimately calm and comforting. A child narrator dreams of experiencing how it feels to be a variety of animals, beginning with a salamander: “All the world was safe, snug spaces and a warm, wet blanket of decaying leaves. Secrets from the soil tickling my hands and soft belly.” The language describing each creature is sensory and evocative, while the art features bright, often close-up images, which range from varying sizes of spot art to spreads that stretch across the page. These size variations lend the images a certain sense of movement and mimic the barrage of images one might visualize while dreaming. Author and illustrator Brendan Wenzel’s website notes his “great affection for “all things furred, feathered, and scaly,” which shows in both this work and previous: He earned a Caldecott Honor for They All Saw a Cat.
Young readers will love guessing the next animal dream from clues in the text and art. For instance, a cloud above the elephant herd turns into a falcon. In dreamlike fashion, the animal appearances gradually speed up until an entire menagerie rapidly unfolds—a chameleon, a star-nosed mole, a hummingbird, sea turtles and more.
There’s a lovely, curvaceous fluidity to Wenzel’s art that ties each animal dream to another. He is a master colorist, whether when drawing a monarch butterfly so vivid you can practically see its wings flutter, or a prowling tiger jumping into a bright rainbow of a jungle with a giant paw so fluffy you can almost feel it. Throughout the intriguing mixture of animals and habitats, Wenzel uses eyes as a unifying theme and makes each pair a focal point that will draw in readers.
Variations of the refrain “until you came . . . and woke me from that dream” repeat until finally the child wakes up for real. Later, as the child slips “beneath the warm weight of a blanket,” readers are brought back to the salamander’s blanket of decaying leaves from the book’s beginning. Every Dreaming Creature is an eye-catching succession of nighttime visions that promotes a sense of empathy and admiration for the world’s many creatures.