Wake Up, Island by Mary Casanova and Woodcuts by Nick Wroblewski

I received a review copy from the publisher. No other compensation was received.


Wake Up, Island, with its serene narrative and gorgeous woodcut illustrations, is stunning, playful, and a truly fulfilling read.  Reading it to your children offers this invigorating and yet calming experience that inspires you to take a minute and feel grateful for the beauty of a new day.  This picture book is a wonderful and soothing deep breath for every reader.

Set in the North Woods of Minnesota, a gentle narrative speaks directly to you about how the day is beginning and gently beckoning for you to come, too.  The pine trees are stretching, deer are rising, a spider is waiting patiently for her meal to drop by, and moose and baby are grazing on underwater shoots. Mallards, ravens, chickadees, and herons are calling, rising, and swooping.  Red squirrels are munching and crunching while black bear is looking for ants and grubs.  The sunshine awakens you and there are berry pancakes waiting.  Only thing left to do is to run outside and play on the beach by the lake.

The narrative is absolute poetry and makes me think of Robert Frost’s poems.  The rhythm of the words and the way you are directly addressed reminds me of The Pasture.  The spacing of the phrases and the utter serenity in the pacing is akin to Margaret Wise Brown’s The Big Red Barn.  And that all of these characteristics are combined into one is spellbinding.


© 2016 Nick Wroblewski.  Images used with permission.

While you sleep, the day is dawning.

Sunlit fingers touch the shores.

Water tickles island’s edges.

Wake up, wake up — night is done.

There’s nothing childish about Wake Up, Island.  There are no goofy faces, animals aren’t personified, there are no silly sound effects, and there’s no specific plot to speak of — and the yet it is so well done and is so intriguing that it draws in my youngest son’s attention deftly and elegantly.

The illustrations done in woodcuts are awe-inspiring.  You will be so engrossed by the art that you’ll linger a little too long as you gaze and admire each page’s art — enough so that the child-audience will impatiently ask you to turn the page before you are ready, but then they will turn right around and ask you 50 questions about the different animals — so you’ll get to stay a little longer.

The way the text and the illustrations dance with each other is formidable.  It lingers in the back of your mind so profoundly that you’ll start looking for a way to take the children camping sooner rather than later.


© 2016 Nick Wroblewski.  Images used with permission.

After reading this book and talking with the neighbors, I found myself looking for places to stay in northern Minnesota.  I had never been.  I found a place, packed up my family, and we drove for hours north to see these northern woods.  Standing on a dock in a lake right after breakfast, I was astonished to see just how perfectly Nick Wroblewski had captured the feel of it all.  He got the colors exactly right and the way he balances details with the abstract is incredible. (My exact thought was, “Wow, he really got it.”)

When we got back from camping and were reading Wake Up, Island, my eldest son pointed to one of the pictures and made the comment, “Hey!  We were just there!”  It was fun that even thought the text specifically doesn’t mention Minnesota, the images certainly do.

The only thing that could make this book a more authentic experience of what it is like to go into the beautiful northern Minnesota woods is to have the book smell like bug spray and sunblock — and maybe a mosquito bite or two.

If you don’t have a chance to make it to the North Woods, or it’ll be awhile before you get to go again, here’s the next best thing.

Recommended Ages 2 to 7. University of Minnesota Press. February 2016. 32 pages. ISBN: 978-0816689354. Fiction.

Where to Get it:

Author and Illustrator Websites:

More Reviews of Wake Up, Island:

Where Obtained:  I received a review copy from the publisher. No other compensation was received.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

FTC Disclosures:  Some of the links in the post above are Amazon affiliate links and others are IndieBound affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase something, I will receive an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. Which goes to fund my family’s picture book habit.  It’s a vicious cycle, but we manage.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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