Before the World Wakes (Estelle Laure)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Before the World Wakes, written by Estelle Laure and illustrated by Paola Zakimi, a celebration of the magic of daybreak.

There are plenty of lovely times of day. When it’s bright and sunny, when spending time with family or school friends, bathtime, mealtimes – all these have their own charm. But for the sibling protagonists, the best time of day is the early morning hours of the day, when they wander outside together and feel the dewy grass on their toes. Wrapped in warm blankets, they can appreciate the peaceful sunrise, observe the slow dance of snails, and listen to the joyful songs of the stirring birds. When their mother asks what they did, they always say, “nothing” – their special time before the world wakes is just for the two of them.

A lovely concept with flawed execution. Early bird readers will likely agree that the predawn and dawn hours have a unique magic to them, and I loved the depiction of a special friendship between two siblings, which felt heartwarming and genuine. Evocative text like “the sky goes the color of a wish” is a pleasure to read aloud, and watercolor, pencil, and gouache illustrations capture a sense of wonder and playfulness. However, as a parent, the idea of my children sneaking out of the house unsupervised while I’m sleeping is TERRIFYING, and it’s this plot detail that may leave adult readers with unease. There’s also a disappointing lack of diversity in the school and crowd scenes, which are populated almost entirely by white-presenting characters. Otherwise, the length is fine for an elementary storytime, and JJ enjoyed some of the elements, especially the snails. This one has positives, but for us, also has to come with a serious conversation about safety that’s worth noting. Overall, Baby Bookworm approved, but with a pretty big asterisk.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representation of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

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