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Mary Casanova - Books for Young People
Wake Up, Island
written by Mary Casanova
illus. by Nick Wroblewski
University of Minnesota Press
March 2016
(HC) 978-0-816-68935-4
Wake Up, Island from Autographed books!
Wake Up, Island  
Book Description:

Wake up, little one, a soft voice beckons, the world around you is already stirring. As Wake Up, Island gently rouses the sleepy child, it summons a world of nature coming to life on a summer island in the magical North Woods. Sunlit fingers touch the shores, pine trees stretch their limbs, and lichen warms on ancient rock. Doe and fawn rise from their grass bed and pearls of dew bead a spider’s finely woven web. Mallards skim the water’s surface. Ravens perch and gargle greetings, chickadees call dee, dee, dee, and a heron swoops—minnows flee! The moose and her calf wade, munching on plants. The red squirrel chatters. The black bear lazily scratches her back against a tree.

Conjuring the morning life around a cabin fragrant with berry pancakes, this timeless book wakens the child in every reader to the wonders of nature that greet every new day in the charmed world of a northern woodland island.

For more information visit
the University of Minnesota Press website.

Watch the video below to learn more about the amazing woodcut artistry of Nick Wroblewski. For more information, his website is

Sway: Portrait of Nick Wroblewski, Woodcut Printmaker


Listen to an interview by Lisa Johnson of KUMD as she talks with Mary about Wake Up, Island and collaboration, breaking the rules, and the power of blueberry pancakes.

Awards & Recognition

National Outdoor Book Award - honorable mention (2016)

Reviews and Comments

Before most people rise and shine on a Minnesotan North Woods island, nature is busy preparing the view. Casanova and Wroblewski deliver a book that proves as much. Readers meet moose, herons, black bears, and other regional natives, and are introduced to living things like yarrow, goldenrod, and lichen. The color illustrations are created from intricate handmade woodcuts yet are vivid enough to engage even the youngest readers who may not appreciate the laborious process.

The text is spare and allows the art to shine, as each word clearly has been chosen carefully to add action and understanding to the impressive pictures without overwhelming the pages. Told in lyrical verse peppered with metaphors and onomatopoeia, this book would do well as a read-aloud and would supplement a variety of lessons on figurative language, nature, animals, art, and more.

VERDICT: A lovely, versatile title to be used in storytime and to supplement many classroom lessons.

—Lindsay Jensen, Nashville Public Library, School Library Journal

Poetic language leads the reader through the early summer morning on a wooded island. As the sun rises, nature awakes. Ducks take flight, deer
drink at the lake's shore, spiders begin their daily task of weaving a new web. A heron, ravens, squirrels and even bear and moose enjoy a breakfast in the crisp air of this northern forest. The last creature to stir is a small child, anxious to embark on the day's adventure.

Nick Wroblewski's rustic woodcuts capture the texture of fur, feather and blade. Muted greens and browns emphasize the quiet and peacefulness of
nature. This simple, charming book would make a lovely gift.

—Jennifer Minicus, MercatorNet: Reading Matters

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

… 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.

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.

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

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

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.

—The Picture Book Review

… In this beautiful book, gorgeous woodcut illustrations are paired with a simple, yet lyrical and rich text to give readers a picture of what it is like to be on an island in a northwoods lake on a summer morning.

—Marya Jansen-Gruber,
Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews


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