In Review: Smiley’s Dream Book

A counting book becomes a wonderful journey in a dream.

Smiley’s Dream Book by Jeff Smith

Published by Scholastic, July 31, 2018. Jacketed hardcover of 38 pages at $17.99. Intended for ages 3 – 5. 

The cover: Smiley Bone has his tongue out with joy at seeing three brightly colored birds in a tree. He points with both hands as he counts the little avians. Cute cover from writer/artist Jeff Smith, creator of the Bone series of books. The illustration is cute and the colors by Tom Gaadt perfect to capture young reader’s attention. Overall grade: A

The premise: From the inside front cover, “On a beautiful sunny day, happy-go-lucky Smiley Bone is walking through the woods when he begins to count some playful birds. The birds sing and climb so high that Smiley must find a fantastical way to keep up with them!” I just had to see Jeff Smith’s name on the cover and I was in. I’m curious to see what Smith has created for very young readers. Overall grade: A

The characters: Smiley Bone is in the forest and sees several birds and counts them. As their numbers increase he begins to fly with them to continue to count their numbers. Smiley loves seeing all the birds, they love him, and soon they’re flying gloriously through the wild blue yonder. All is well until the villain shows up: a hawk. This raptor takes a few swipes at the birds with its razor sharp claws until Smiley puts a stop to it in a peaceful way. The protagonist is fun and the antagonist scary without being terrifying. The characters are fun, sweet, and just scary enough in this quick tale. Overall grade: A

The settings: A calm woods and the skies are the locations of this tale and both are believable. Overall grade: A

The action: When Smiley takes to the skies to continue his exuberant counting of the birds it’s very enjoyable and extremely thrilling as they soar about. The arrival of the hawk is a surprise and his attempts to grab one of Smiley’s new friends puts just enough of a thrill into this dream. The predator’s reaction to seeing Smiley is fantastic, and look low for an added joke. Overall grade: A

The conclusion: His dream ended, Smiley has a few words aloud, to the reader, about what he thinks of dreams and it’s a terrific message for anyone of any age. Overall grade: A

The illustrations: In this oversized edition, 10 1/2″ X 10 1/4″, Jeff Smith gets to create some wonderful imagery with Smiley and the birds. Smiley is a wonderfully designed character whose smile and tongue make him instantly appealing. The birds are also fun, with some wearing hats and scarves. The hawk is the most realistic character in the book and it’s fantastic; again, the hawk’s reaction after being confronted by Smiley has a got a little extra in it for a good laugh. Overall grade: A

The colors: Tom Gaadt adds considerably to Smith’s illustrations with the most serene greens for the woods, a wonderful collection of colors for the birds, a dreamy blue sky, and some realistic hues for the hawk. Simply put, Gaddt’s work is the perfect match to Smith’s work. Overall grade: A

The final line: A counting book becomes a wonderful journey in a dream. The story is fun and magical, accompanied by delightful art, and concludes with a terrific message. Perfect reading for the little ones and fun for those familiar with the adventures of the Bone family. Overall grade: A 

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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