This is the book that taught my four year old to use the word gargantuan. It has been a favourite ever since.
Sleeping Dragons All Around by Canadian author Sheree Fitch is filled with rare words to encourage a budding vocabulary. It also contains fun rhymes, repetitive features young kids will love and whimsical illustrations from Michele Nidenoff. The writing style allows for dramatic readings that will engage both parent and child in this fraught journey past sleeping dragons toward a midnight snack fit for the sweetest sweet tooth.
In terms of message, this is a versatile book. Parents with little ones who might be struggling with night time fears like monsters under the bed will find this a useful book to frame a discussion about overcoming those fears. The ultimate resolution of the story also lends itself to discussions about sharing The illustration of the dragons denied the cake can be used for early lessons in empathy. Parents can ask children how they think the girl feels when the dragons start to eat her mocha maple chocolate cake and then about how the dragons might feel when the little girl yells at them.
The use of language in the text is wonderful for early literacy. It is probably more accessible for children in the 4-5 age range as there are at least 1/2 a dozen rare words per page. This is a wonderful tool for phonological awareness both because it is simply fun to read, but also because of the rhymes and repetition. Each page describes a specific and decidedly odd dragon but it also repeats…
“I must tiptoe, tiptoes…. softly as I pass…” or a close variation on this sentence.
The size and capitalization of the words change, encouraging not only volume shifts for the reader but print recognition for the children as well. The placement of words on the page is also very specific, with the justification of the repeated phrases always the same. This way, children can easily see the words they are starting to repeat with the reader.
Sleeping Dragons All Around is a great introduction to the power of language. Parents can point out the descriptive words and encourage children to describe the things around them. Is the tree outside just big or is it huge… or massive… or gargantuan?
Younger kids could have fun with simple pretend games. Set up some stuffed animals and tip toe around them, trying not to wake them up. The parent could continue using rare words describing the toys as they go with the goal of having the child start using similar descriptive words as the game progresses.
This is a wonderful book that I highly recommend for young reader both for its emergent literacy elements but also because it is simply a fun story to both read and hear.