The Insomniacs

Title: The Insomniacs

Author: Karina Wolf
Illustrator: The Brothers Hilts

Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Sleep, Bedtime, Night

Opening Lines:

“The Insomniacs weren’t always a night family.

But when Mrs. Insomniac found a new job, Mother, Father, and little Mika traveled twelve time zones to their new home.”

Synopsis (from Penguin website):

The wonder of nighttime comes to life in this breathtaking debut.

When the Insomniacs move twelve time zones away for Mrs. Insomniac’s new job, the family has an impossible time adapting to the change. They try everything to fall asleep at night–take hot baths, count to one thousand, sip mugs of milk–but nothing helps. Venturing out into the dark, they learn there is a whole world still awake and a beauty in their new and unconventional schedule.

Ideal for bedtime reading, this gorgeous and lyrical story celebrates nighttime’s mystery and magic.


Time Zones

  • Simple way to teach at home is with a globe and flashlight, click here for steps.
  • Online learning videos which explain the reason for 24 time zones and a discussion about the four time zones in the US.
  • National Geographic has a time zone exercise suitable for upper elementary grades.

Nocturnal animals

  • Pinterest board which has links to books and crafts related to nocturnal animals.
  • Article by National Geographic Explorer on nocturnal animals with photos.
  • Lesson plan for ages 0-5 from the Library of Michigan – contains books, songs, links to activity sheets, crafts
  • Lesson plans for elementary classrooms – version of tag, create constellations with marshmallows, and more.

Go for a walk with your child, a nighttime outing, ask the child what he or she sees and hears.

Why I Like This Book:

An original, fresh twist on the traditional can’t fall asleep bedtime story.

I love that the family has to move because of Mrs. Insomniacs job (yeah mom!). But adjusting twelve hours is hard and the family struggles to find a way to fall asleep at night, hot baths, counting to a thousand, six mugs, of milk, even meditation — but nothing works. The family decides to go ask their animal neighbors. With flashlight in hand they walk through the forest and notice that darkness is full of life and decide to try living at night instead. This unusual schedule works for them as they get to enjoy the moon, stars, and trips to the flower market and bakery.

The illustrations are gorgeous and quirky, and have an Oliver Jeffer’s kind of feel. The color palette is muted yellows/browns for the day scenes and blues/grays for the night scenes, with hints of color for items such as the scarf, book, or flowers. Check out the trailer below.

Read the book and discover the beauty of the night, but don’t forget your flashlight!

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

This book was nominated by ReadyAnnie for the 2012 Cybils Awards in the Fiction Picture Book category. I am a second-round judge in this category, but this review reflects my opinions only, not those of any other panelist, or the panel as a whole. Thanks!

30 Responses to “The Insomniacs”

  1. I am a huge fan of this book. And the trailer! So much pretty.

  2. I had downloaded an image from the book without knowing where it was from, or even that it was part of the book. I’ve had it as my ‘desktop’ image for weeks. When I finally had the book in my hands three days ago I was pleasantly surprised! I love the artwork. Can’t say I am as crazy for the story, but I’m so glad the move had to do with MOM’s job! I’ll be purchasing it just the same! Great activity suggestions!

  3. A clever way to segue into information on nocturnal animals. The illustrations are mesmerizing! Thanks for the review, Darshana.

  4. Hi Darshana! I am loving the sound of this book! And the cover is all kinds of awesome. It’s on my list. Thanks for a great review.

  5. Oh what a beautiful selection. I saw this advertized, but haven’t read it. Glad you included the video as it added to thestory. Sounds like a fun read for kids at bedtime. Love the theme.

  6. Besides the feel of the book that I could gather from your review, I also absolutely love the muted shades and the trailer! Unlikely that I’ll get a copy here, but will try and convince my kids’ school librarian to get this one in! Thanks for sharing it here, Darshana!

  7. Great choice! I like the trailer! 🙂

  8. I have been meaning to read this so really appreciate the review and the commentsi

  9. Sounds interesting! I enjoyed the trailer. Thanks!

  10. This looks fantastic, Darshana! I love that bottom painting you showed from the book – gorgeous! And I really like the concept of the story… and the fact that they move for Mom’s job! Thanks so much for adding it to our list.

  11. I love the look of this book – so different and dramatic. It almost looks like a Tim Burton movie. I’ll definitely keep my eye out for this one.

  12. Interesting story and beautiful pics. Must check this out. Thanks!

  13. I must look for this. When I was young my dad was overseas….we’d try to picture what he was doing and my mom would always calculate the time difference to make it seem more real.


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