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The Book of the Sandman and the Alphabet of…

The Book of the Sandman and the Alphabet of Sleep (1988)

by Rien Poortvliet (Illustrator), Wil Huygen (Author)

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A lovely and very substantial picture-book, originally from the Netherlands, that builds itself a complex mythology about sleep, centered on the Sandman, who carries the sand that sends people to dreamland.

It is framed as a mysterious manuscript found in an old hut by two men hiking through the mountains (in what is implied by the illustrations to be the 19th century, or possibly just once upon a time). The manuscript consists of an Alphabet of Sleep, pairing each letter with a quatrain about something sleep-related, a charming illustration featuring anthropomorphic animals, and then a short bit of text that gives (real, and often very interesting) historical context or advice about the topic.

After finding the manuscript, the two travellers meet an old woman who claims to know the Sandman personally. She offers them shelter and tells them all about him and his duties, making up the second part of the book, the Book of the Sandman.

This is one of those picture books, like Gurney's Dinotopia, that isn't quite sure whether it's a children's picture book, or a curiosity for adults, but it is, at the least, a wondrous fantasy for adults who are young at heart, and excellent comfort-reading for insomniacs. ( )
  melannen | Dec 7, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Poortvliet, RienIllustratorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Huygen, WilAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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“Perhaps nothing is wholly true, and even not that.” – E. Douwes Dekker (Multatuli, 1820-1887)
for our little children
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The ancient Greeks believed that Hypnos, the god of sleep, was the brother to Thanatos, the god of death.
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Two travelers discover the secrets of sleep from the Sandman himself. Includes a book-within-a-book with helpful hints for both sleepyheads and insomniacs.

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