Friday, May 29, 2009
Sleeping over at a friend's house for the first time is a major milestone in childhood that is often marked by a little anxiety. In Ira Sleeps Over, Bernard Waber manages to capture that anxiety with a lot of humor and very real family interactions (supportive mom and dad, not so supportive older sister).
The book opens when Ira is invited to his best friend Reggie's house for a sleepover. It's the first time he's slept away from his parents, and he's thrilled. That is until his sister asks him if he will be bringing his teddy bear with him. At first he says no, of course not. Then his sister reminds him that he's never slept without him. That's when the worrying begins. Ira goes back and forth as to whether or not he should bring his teddy bear. Then just when he decides he should, his sister asks him if he's going to let Reggie know that his teddy bear's name is Tah Tah. That does it. No way will he bring his teddy bear to Reggie's house.
So off he goes to Reggie's for his first sleepover. The boys have a great time in the beginning, complete with wrestling matches and pillow fights. Finally, it's bedtime, and as they are lying down in the dark, Reggie starts to tell a ghost story. Just as it begins to get scary, Reggie stops the story in mid sentence, walks over to his dresser and pulls out...his teddy bear. Ira prods him about the bear and finds out that the bear's name is Foo Foo. With that, he gets out of bed and tells Reggie he has to get something (they live next door to each other), and goes to retrieve his beloved Tah Tah.
Kids will identify with Ira and his confusing array of emotions. They will understand his desire to show his sister he doesn't need his teddy bear, while at the same time understand that he still needs to have his teddy bear when he goes to sleep.
Bernard Waber has managed to capture each and every character's voice perfectly, which makes for a fun read aloud. It's actually hard NOT to sound like an unsure seven-year-old kid or his somewhat bratty older sister. Waber's ear for spoken language is that good.
If you like Ira Sleeps Over, then you are sure to like Ira Says Goodbye. This time it deals with what happens when your best friend (Reggie) moves away. Once again, Waber captures the voice and emotions of an elementary school aged child.
BookNosher Activities: There are a surprising number of school related activities on the web for Ira Sleeps Over. Here's a link to one that is geared more towards parents. They have some good discussion questions, as well as some fun activities to do.