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.
Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews