The Insomniacs

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
The Insomniacs Book Poster Image
Great bedtime read about family that's up all night.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kids will learn about different time zones and nocturnal animals and encounter some sophisticated vocabulary, including "insomniacs," "telescope," "lynx," "aardvark," and "bandicoot."

Positive Messages

You don't have to be afraid of the dark, and it's fine to live differently than everybody else. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mother is shown to have an interesting scientific job as an astronomer, while Father is in a creative field as a photographer. Mika is open-minded and curious and enjoys learning about nocturnal animals and enjoying other aspects of life at night, including shopping at the flower market and going to the bakery, "where the dough rose with the sun." The family works together to find a solution to their problem. 

Violence & Scariness

No violence, but there's a scene in which scores of bats are hanging in a cave and then suddenly fly out en masse, squealing.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Insomniacs is a delightfully original picture book about a family that, after moving through 12 time zones, finds they can no longer sleep at night. They try and try, but ultimately they decide to do their living at night and sleep during the day. Kids will enjoy seeing normal routines turned upside down and finding out that maybe the dark isn't as scary as they thought. 

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What's the story?

After Mrs. Insomniac (Mother) finds a new job, she, Father, and daughter Mika travel 12 time zones to their new home and find that they're so thrown off, they can no longer get to sleep at night. They discover that the darkness is \"full of life,\" with all sorts of nocturnal animals roaming about, and finally decide to do their living when it's dark out and sleep when it's light. Mika gets her own noctural pets, including an aardvark and bandicoot, and attends night school online. Mother studies the stars through her telescope, and Father watches the nightly news and develops photos in a darkroom. They not only adapt, they find they prefer it this way. \"We are a nighttime family,\" they conclude.

Is it any good?

THE INSOMNIACS is tantalizingly unusual and sure to draw kids into its topsy-turvy world. Most kids are at least somewhat scared of the dark. But this offbeat charmer shows a whole family learning to love the dark and be fine with living differently than everybody else.

The slightly creepy but very appealing sytylized illustrations by the Brothers Hilts mix a hint of Edward Gorey and a smidge of Humpty Dumpty (in Father's extensive bald pate) to create three lovable oddballs who make the best out of an unusual condition: not being able to sleep at night. Should make perfect bedtime reading.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how they feel about the dark. Is it always scary? Or have you had some fun in the dark? 

  • What other books, movies, or TV shows can you think of that are about a family that's different from most? How were they different? 

  • What makes The Insomniacs seem a little spooky? Is it the illustrations, the colors in the pictures (lots of black and midnight blue), or the kind of activities they do?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love picture books and family stories

Themes & Topics

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