Britta Teckentrup has illustrated more than 80 children’s picture books, and this latest, Before I Wake Up is one of her best. It has a soothing, dream-like quality, encapsulating the essence of the idea, which is a book that portrays a child’s nighttime in the most reassuring way possible. It follows the dreamscape of a little girl, accompanied by her toy lion, and taking ideas and articles from her life with her – yet distorting everything slightly – as happens in dreams.
Like in Teckentrup’s picture book about the changing seasons, Tree, the colour palate blends and merges like a tonal rainbow, from the intensity of a dark night to the encroaching glow of morning. By using collage – layers of transparent images – the dreamlike quality escalates, the further into the book the reader goes.
Although a typical journey of a children’s book, it is the clever use of imagery that pulls. The moon transforms into a hot air balloon – pulling the child’s bed through her subconscious with a dreamy consistency. Other images are repeated and warped slightly, yet soothe and reassure; the toy lion is a companion who leads the little girl through the night. The lion grows in the dreamscape, but as a protector rather than a predator – putting his arms around the child in the storms.
There is an innate sensitivity to the images, pared with rhyming text that contains a multitude of soothing words, such as gaze, stars, song, rocking, safe, kisses.
The face of the little girl in repose both absorbs this stillness and also offers assurances. The dazzling brightness of daytime comes into play in the final pages, the yellow hue so powerful it is as if you really have opened your eyes from a dream. Wonderful stuff. For anyone who’s ever had a worrying, sleepless night.
Below, Doris Kutschback, Editor-in-Chief of the publishers, Prestel Junior, explains how the book came about.
Can you give some background information as to how the book was created?
When Britta showed me the book she had already worked on it for a long time. It was a project of the heart. I was very excited by it straight away and we sat down together and selected the spreads that would make it into the final book out of a vast selection of images.
The book is a 56pp picture book and not a typical 32pp picture book… why have you chosen a longer format?
The rhythm of the story didn’t allow for it to be cut down to 32pp. How can you travel through a whole night if you’re limited to 12 spreads?
Was the original text written in German or English (Britta was born and lives in Germany)?
It was written in English and it was not that easy to translate the English rhymes into German.
What do you love about the book?
I mainly love the soft tones and how the lion gives the girl strength with his subtle tenderness. I love the soft flow of the images as they guide you through the night. It’s all very harmonious without ever getting boring. The mood is perfect for this subject matter. I also really like the paper and the whole look and feel of the book…it all works together very well.
Have you got a favourite page?
My personal favourite is – ‘…I wish I could stay in this wilderness…’
Is there anything you would have done differently?
What was it like working together with Britta on this book?
She’s perfect! Super professional, super relaxed and unpretentious…She is a fantastic artist and isn’t a diva but always very modest which makes working with her a great joy. I enjoy brainstorming with her and I have got the feeling that we are on the same wavelength – we always understand immediately what the other person is talking about.
Thanks so much to Prestel for providing the interview and the book review copy. You can visit Britta’s website at www.brittateckentrup.com or find her on twitter @BTeckentrup. You can purchase a copy of Before I Wake Up… here