The Stuff of Dreams

Anyone been having odd dreams lately? My most vivid recent one involved visiting a sort of natural public swimming pool which was full of marine life. The water was gloomy, with dark slippery rocks and glowing specks of creatures. And my swimming companion was Alan Bennett. Answers on a postcard…

It is always intriguing to see dream worlds drawn and described on the page.

Judith Kerr’s most famous cat Mog has always done a lot of dreaming in her books, whether she is imagining herself flying with birds or fantasising about white mice falling from the sky. In Katinka’s Tail (2017, HarperCollins), it is her owner, a depiction of Kerr herself, who is wildly dreaming. Katinka is white with a tabby tail, and one night this special tail becomes the source of all sorts of magical occurrences. Katinka and Kerr even end up soaring into the night air together. It’s sweet and spellbinding.

Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen (1971, Puffin) captures amazingly the strange feelings of movement in dreamworld: falling, floating, flying, diving, swimming… A boy, Mickey, falls from bed down into the Night Kitchen, a cityscape of packages and utensils. The story would tumble into nightmare if it wasn’t for the bold Mickey. Three moustachioed bakers try to cook him in a cake, but Mickey frees himself and shapes his own adventure. He may be immersed in batter or milk, or taking to the air in a plane made of dough, but he never loses the sense of who he is…

Little Frida (2019, Walker Books) is Anthony Browne’s telling of the vision experienced by the artist Frida Kahlo aged 7. Browne, who delights in surreal detail, is a perfect artist to paint her dream. The design and scale of the book invites you to lose yourself in the images . It’s a powerful read; Frida’s dream is framed as a response to her pain, isolation and disappointment. She begins by tracing a shape on a window, and opens up another world… The experience she has is anything but whimsical, it is life changing.

Katinka’s Tail was borrowed from Karrinyup Library, City of Stirling
Little Frida was borrowed from Duncraig Library @joondaluplibraries
The Night Kitchen purchased from

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