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Just a Dream

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Overview

Young Walter litters and refuses to sort trash for recycling, until he dreams of an overcrowded and polluted future which terrifies him into taking care of the earth. "Van Allsburg reaches a new pinnacle of excellence in both illustration and storytelling . . . His fable builds to an urgent plea for action as it sends a rousing message of hope." -- Publishers Weekly

When he has a dream about a future Earth devastated by pollution, Walter begins to understand the ...

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Overview

Young Walter litters and refuses to sort trash for recycling, until he dreams of an overcrowded and polluted future which terrifies him into taking care of the earth. "Van Allsburg reaches a new pinnacle of excellence in both illustration and storytelling . . . His fable builds to an urgent plea for action as it sends a rousing message of hope." -- Publishers Weekly

When he has a dream about a future Earth devastated by pollution, Walter begins to understand the importance of taking care of the environment.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Two-time Caldecott Medalist Van Allsburg reaches a new pinnacle of excellence in both illustration and storytelling in his latest work. Since his first book, The Garden of Abdul Gasazi , appeared just over a decade ago, he has spun many strange and fantastic modern fairy tales, all of which spill over the edge of reality into magnificent dreamscapes. Here Van Allsburg introduces Walter, a boy who imagines the future as a marvelous time, with tiny airplanes that can be parked on the roof of your house and robots that take care of all your work for you. In the present, however, Walter is a litterbug who can't be bothered to sort the trash for recycling and laughs at Rose, the girl next door, because she receives a sapling for her birthday. One night, when Walter goes to sleep, his bed travels to the future. But he finds neither tiny airplanes nor robots, only piles of trash covering the street where he used to live, acres and acres of stumps where forests used to stand, rows and rows of great smokestacks belching out acrid smoke, and many other environmental nightmares. Van Allsburg renders each of these chilling scenarios in elaborate, superbly executed two-page spreads that echo the best work of M. C. Escher and Winsor McKay (creator of the Little Nemo comic strips).pls call Gil Sprague at 201-653-4055 and make sure this addition is OK by him. also, are these the only artists whose styles come to mind when he looks at these pictures? Walter and his bed land right in the middle of the action in each of these hallucinatory paintings, heightening the visual impact and forcing a hard look at the devastation surrounding Van Allsburg's protagonist. An awakened Walter, jolted by his dream, changes his ways: he begins to sort the trash and, like Rose, plants a tree for his birthday. Then his bed takes him to a different future, one where people tend their lawns with powerless mowers and where the trees he and Rose have planted stand tall and strong beneath a blue sky. Not only are Just a Dream 's illustrations some of the most striking Van Allsburg has ever created, but the text is his best yet. Van Allsburg has sacrificed none of the powerful, otherworldly spirit that suffuses his earlier works, and he has taken a step forward by bringing this spirit to bear on a vitally important issue. His fable builds to an urgent plea for action as it sends a rousing message of hope. All ages. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Debra Briatico
This well-written fable offers a plea for environmental action and sends a message of hope for future generations. In this story, a young boy litters and refuses to sort trash for recycling, until he has a dream about an overcrowded and polluted future world. When he awakens from his terrifying nightmare, Walter rearranges his priorities and learns how to become ecologically conscious.
School Library Journal
Gr 2-5-- Walter, an environmental ignoramus of a 10 year old, is careless or scornful of such elementary actions as recycling or tree planting. One nightmarish evening, however, he visits a future where his daydreams of technological paradise are demolished. Instead, there is merely a horrifically exacerbated continuation of today's eco-problems: landfills, expressways, smog, lifeless oceans, and vanished wilderness. Walter awakens reformed, and is rewarded with another dream: the future redeemed. As the story exhibits Van Allsburg's ``signature'' character (a child free of adult supervision) and plot (the dream-vision), so the pictures display the hallmarks of the artist's style: bird's- and worm's-eye perspectives, dramatic lighting effects, some geometric simplification of forms. Wordless double-page spreads alternate with pages of text and small vignettes. The abstract beauty of the images produces a curious tension with the idea of a barren and ugly future; the stylized orderliness of the art is itself eerily disturbing. That this depicts the nightmare of a child may excuse some inconsistencies (in an utterly ruined environment would trees still be cut down for toothpicks?), but the real disappointment comes at the end. Walter's utopian vision is an unchildlike nostalgia trip: a suburban reprise of the '40s. Such a sentimental and parochially narrow vision of a future for a privileged few is the chief failure of this well-meaning effort. --Patricia Dooley, University of Washington, Seattle
From the Publisher

"Van Allsburg reaches a new pinnacle of excellence in both illustration and storytelling . . . His fable builds to an urgent plea for action as it sends a rousing message of hope."—Publishers Weekly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395533086
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/28/1990
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Edition description: None
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 486,825
  • Age range: 7 - 10 Years
  • Lexile: 550L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.75 (w) x 11.25 (h) x 0.13 (d)

Meet the Author

CHRIS VAN ALLSBURG is the winner of two Caldecott Medals, for Jumanji and The Polar Express, as well as the recipient of the Caldecott Honor for The Garden of Abdul Gasazi. The author and illustrator of numerous picture books for children, he has also been awarded the Regina Medal for lifetime achievement in children's literature. Chris Van Allsburg was formerly an instructor at the Rhode Island School of Design. He lives in Rhode Island with his wife and two children.

Biography

Multiple Caldecott Medal winner Chris Van Allsburg grew up in the 1950s in and around Grand Rapids, Michigan. He majored in sculpture at the University of Michigan's College of Architecture & Design and graduated in 1972. He received his M.F.A. in 1975 from Rhode Island School of Design.

After graduate school, Van Allsburgh set up a sculpture studio in Providence, married and settled in the area, and began exhibiting his work in New York City and throughout New England. Around the same time, he became interested in drawing. His wife, Lisa, encouraged him to pursue children's book illustration, putting him in contact with her friend David Macauley, a successful artist and author. Macauley's editor at Houghton Mifflin was impressed by Van Allsburgh's work and advised him to try his hand at illustrating a story of his own. His maiden effort, The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, was published in 1979 and received a Caldecott Honor Medal.

Since that auspicious beginning, Van Allsburgh has gone on to produce a string of wonderfully inventive, critically acclaimed, and award-winning books. He gathers inspiration from unlikely quarters -- the progress of ants across a kitchen counter, crayon streaks in a child's coloring book, a children's board game come to life -- and executes his ideas on a provocative but surefire "What if..." principle.

Among his many awards are two Caldecott Medals -- one for Jumanji, written in 1982 and the other for 1985's The Polar Express; a National Book Award (also for Jumanji); and the Regina Medal for lifetime achievement in children's literature.

Good To Know

Van Allsburg's grandfather owned and operated the East End Creamery and delivered milk and milk products to homes around the Grand Rapids area in yellow and blue trucks.

One of Van Allsburg's childhood homes was a big, Tudor-styled house on a wide, tree-lined street. He used the street as a model for the cover art of what is arguably his most famous book, The Polar Express.

Because so many students at Van Allsburg's high school excelled academically, representatives from the University of Michigan would visit each year to interview interested seniors and admit them on the spot if they met qualifications. During his senior year, Van Allsburg was told about the art program affiliated with the University's College of Architecture & Design and thought it sounded like fun. Although he had never had any formal art classes, he fibbed to the admissions officer, saying he had taken private lessons outside of school.

Two of Van Allsburg's bestselling books, Jumanji and The Polar Express, were subsequently turned into blockbuster movies.

Van Allsburg is not your typical "feel good" children's author. He has been known to handle darker themes, and his stories often involve bizarre worlds and dreamscapes.

In all his stories, Van Allsburg inserts a little white bull terrier modeled after a real-life dog owned by his brother-in-law. (Another popular children's author, David Shannon, does the same thing, but Shannon's pup is a Westie!)

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    1. Hometown:
      Providence, Rhode Island
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 18, 1949
    2. Place of Birth:
      Grand Rapids, Michigan
    1. Education:
      University of Michigan College of Architecture & Design, 1972; Rhode Island School of Design, MFA, 1975
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2009

    A great picture book

    As with all of Chris Van Allsburg's books this one is beautifully illustrated. It has a clear environmental message that does not overwhelm the rest of the book.

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  • Posted March 2, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    This is a great book to teach children about taking care of the environment.

    I have read this book to my classsroom students for many years around Earth Day. For my grandson's birthday, I gave him the book to read and a tree to plant. He loved the book and tree. He was helping to replace the tree it took to make this book. The author is excellent and the illustrations are very creative. I would recomment this book to teachers and parents alike.

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  • Posted December 11, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    WOW!!!

    I love this book! It's perfect for anybody who is interested in saving the Earth or just wanting a good book to read. It's absoloutely brilliant!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2006

    It was a magical reading

    I read this story in elementary and a go decade ago, I still remember the joy and magic that I felt reading this story. The illustrations are excellent, full of iridescent colors that excite your imagination. I would recommend this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews

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