Who wants to be awake forever?
Life has changed for eight-year-old Merel. Since the birth of her sick baby brother, her parents seem to have forgotten she exists. But when she finds a tiny silver violin in her bedroom rug, things take a turn for the worse. Merel learns that her sleep has abandoned her and that she must embark on a perilous journey to recover it or stay awake forever. Together with her devoted toy sheep, Roger, tired Merel sets out in search of Lullaby Grove and, before long, is haunted by a scary stranger.
Follow Merel into a surreal world. Meet a sleepy king with an obsession for feathers and a transparent old man on a night train going nowhere. Discover why the moonfish cry, why you should never walk across the Great Yawns, and whether Merel can escape her pursuer, win back her sleep, and realize what matters most.
"This is such a good story! With a lot of clever lessons and details hidden throughout."
―Dayna, proofreader, Canada
"I loved it! I connected with this book in a special way because I have been chasing sleep my entire life and the take on making Merel's Sleep tangible was absolutely brilliant! The story has this amazing Alice in Wonderland/Labyrinth type of imagination that makes it so different from most other books. It's like stepping into another world."―Amanda, beta reader, Minneapolis, USA
Please see Chapter One below
"This is a WONDERFUL middle grade story. I absolutely loved it and gobbled it up in basically one sitting! There is nothing I could point to that I didn't enjoy – this was the perfect story. A delightful read, whether you will be reading it with a little one or on your own."
―Evalina, book blooger at AvalinahsBooks.com, read the full review here
"I can't even begin to describe how wonderful this book is. The world in it is so beautiful and strange at the same time. The characters are fantastic, each and everyone of them are perfectly shaped and thought out. It feels like a dream you don't want to wake up from, most of the time that is. The main character is a very believable young girl who struggles with the feelings of being left to her own devices by her parents because they have so much worries. Merel is also lovely and brave. I recommend it to anyone who loves to dream about other worlds."
―FallingLeaves, Goodreads Reviewer
"This was a story of adventure, hope, accepting and growing up. I found each chapter filled with fun and excitement. Did I enjoy this book? Yes, indeed. I was charmed. Would I recommend it? With all my little girl at heart!"
―Laura Thomas, book blooger at fuonlyknew.com, read the full review here
"Interesting and unique characters gently impart life lessons in clever ways. From the very first page you will want to tag along with Merel on her adventure to find her missing Sleep. The descriptions are amazing. My favorite character is Glum ― someday I would like to kiss a moonfish and have the type of adventure that he offers. The names of the moonfish are part of an interesting lesson that Merel learns because she is the one teaching it!
Five stars for this delightful children’s book that anyone, regardless of age, will enjoy. Vivid imagination inside an easy to read, fun, and insightful story."
―Jill, editor, Pennsylvania, USA
"This story drips with imagination. It’s fluidly written, and it is full of incident."
―Rhian Waller, author of Ship Rats
"I really enjoyed Sleep, Merel, Sleep. It's a fabulous, enchanting story."
"It's a magical story, beautifully told. I immediately fell in love with the premise."
"The book was absolutely inspirational, and the story was so well written and developed."
―Paige, book blogger
"Janine Atkin, book reviewer from Britain, @book_hoarder82, said this about Sleep, Merel, Sleep:
... is a lovely children's book filled with lots of nonsense and silliness. Underneath all that is an important message about family and love and treasuring those closest to you."
(Janine also took the sweet picture.)
"I thoroughly love this storybook and believe adults, as well as children, will be reading this one for years to come."
"The story is easy to read, light- hearted, and the fun-filled language makes it an interesting read for both young and old."
―Tee Wai, book blogger
"Sleep, Merel, Sleep by Silke Stein is a children’s fantasy story about a girl named Merel who has to make things right after her bratty behavior sends her personal “Sleep” friend away in a huff. Merel is always angry and upset these days because her infant brother is extremely ill and her parents don’t have time for her. Merel sees things darkly. She doesn’t want to sleep or relax, but to cry, and storm, and throw things. When her Sleep gives up on her, snotty, rude Merel is sent through a surreal fantasy land in a desperate effort to locate him. Until he does, she will never sleep again. Exhausted, Merel drifts from one obstacle to another, each one reminding her of something in her life, as the elusive Lullabye Grove seems always out of reach.
Sleep, Merel, Sleep is an astonishing story that shines with a glowing honesty. Both the writing and imaginative angles are excellent. Silke Stein weaves a sheer, gauzy blend of both into a world that’s half-Oz, half-Wonderland, and doesn’t have one word out of place. Each aspect of Merel’s journey springs on her in a marvelous, sudden way that seems irrational but operates with the deep logic of a living dream as Merel pieces together her own weaknesses and slowly understands the wrong in her ways, one step at a time. Pursued by a ghostly man with bloodshot eyes, determined to eradicate sleep, Merel learns about the folly of self-pity, the kind heart beneath her mother’s busy exterior, and—the biggest surprise of all—just how Merel really feels towards her baby brother. A delicately symbolic tale that made me care about this little girl every step of the way as she learns to accept her family and her place in it."
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Merel’s Sleep perched on the edge of the wooden dresser. His gaze drifted around the room in which he had spent every night for the last eight and a half years. The familiar view he used to enjoy
— the feathery clouds floating across the striped sky-blue wallpaper; the pink slippers with the rabbit ears, waiting under the bed, eager to be of service; on the shelf, the tin music box ready
to play its brassy rendition of ‘You Are My Sunshine’ slightly off-key — everything in its place and yet — everything out of whack.
His eyes stopped on the delicate shape of the violin lying next to him on the solid sugar maple. How he longed to hear its soothing song.
He jiggled his legs, hoping his feet would not fall asleep again.
Over on the bed, nothing had changed. The girl banged her fist against the crimson-colored headboard with a force that almost made the little painted crown drop off. She knelt on her pillow, with a grim expression, arms lifted like a prize fighter, ready to repeat it over and over again.
With a whiff of linden-scented night air, a dream collector appeared through the half-open window.
“Good evening,” he said, and with a quick glance in the direction of the bed where more punches were thrown, he added, “or another bad one?”
Merel’s Sleep eyed the tiny man in the iridescent overalls who hovered in front of him, wings abuzz.
“Nothing here for you to do so far — or me,” he muttered and picked some lint off of the sleeve of his black suit jacket.
“I hope for your sake she will come to her senses soon.” The dream collector waved his chubby fingers. “Anyway, I’ll make sure a colleague drops in later.” He vanished like a bursting soap bubble.
“Whatever.” Merel’s Sleep frowned. In his experience, it would take at least another two hours before she would be exhausted enough to even consider sleeping.
He watched her clutch Roger by the neck and hurl him out of the bed against the opposite wall, where the little plush sheep bounced off and tore down the large poster with the nice colorful illustrations of the Backyard Birds of North America.
“There he goes again.” Merel’s Sleep groaned. He grabbed his violin and jumped down onto the Flokati rug covering most of the bedroom floor. The tender strands of whitish wool stroked his naked feet.
He trudged over to the poster and lifted the edge of it. “Aren’t you getting tired of this, Roger?”
“She doesn’t mean it, friend,” came the muffled reply.
Merel’s Sleep stooped down to look under the creased sheet of paper. “If only I had your patience.”
“She is going through a very tough time right now, you know,” Roger said, crawling towards him.
Merel’s Sleep scratched his left big toe. “Tell me about it.” He couldn’t even remember when all the fuss had started, but it had peaked on one rainy evening in mid-March when the woman refused to read to her.
“Come on, Mom, Sleeping Beauty, please,” she had whined.
“Oh, Merel,” the woman said, “you have to be a big girl now. You know that Blue always gets worse at night. He needs me. You will have to read it yourself.”
The fairy tale book went flying through the room the moment the door closed behind the woman. And since then: perpetual terror.
Merel’s Sleep winced. Over on the bed, she screeched like an emergency siren. His ears were so sore.
“I can’t get into the bed by myself,” said Roger, peeking out from under the paper. “There’s nothing here for me to climb on. I’ll have to wait until she picks me up, friend.” He nestled into the rug’s fur, beaming as if he had been favored with a special treat.
Merel’s Sleep let go of the poster edge and shook his head. What a little imbecile, always calm and accepting — no matter how badly she knocked him about. But what could one expect from somebody who wore a satin bow around his neck?
He opened his wings and flew up.
“It’s 10:42,” Hulda, the vintage alarm clock, informed him as he landed next to her on the night table. The last thing he needed now was her serene smile. Not to mention the ruckus she produced when she drummed mercilessly on her brass bells in the morning. Although right now, even that would be more tolerable than the display of the savage.
He stared at her. Face: fire engine red. Pajamas: crumpled. Hair: soaked with sweat. She had just gotten hold of her tissue box, dragged out the contents and began to rip them into snippets while shrieking like a cornered rat.
“Tick, tock, just remember how adorable she looks when she wakes up in the morning, the sweet baby,” Hulda said, “with her rose petal cheeks and her charming smile. Tick, tock, like a little angel.”
“She reminds me more of the opposite lately,” Merel’s Sleep snapped back. “I’m so fed up. Every evening the same song and dance with this pampered imp. My nerves are over-tight strings, ready to pop.”
Although he hollered, he couldn’t compete with the clamour already filling the bedroom.
“I can barely hold the violin straight. My fingers are a jittery mess. Any randomly picked alley cat is an ear pleaser compared to my performance!”
“Tick, don’t wind yourself up like this,” said Hulda, forgetting to show the next second. “That’s unhealthy. Tick, something could break.”
“A break? Yes, I need a break. No, even better — I quit!”
Merel’s Sleep glanced at the violin in his shaking hand, then at the raging girl, and with a jolt, he threw his instrument down into the wilderness of the woollen fringes.
“The snot nose can find somebody else to play for her,” he bellowed and disappeared.