My Thoughts Have Wings

Sleep is important. Not that anyone needs convincing. The lack of sleep—or not enough sleep—is unhealthy and we are reminded of this often; in the news, online, wherever we get our information. As an adult I know this first hand. I love sleep and celebrate every morning I wake up and feel I had good, deep, uninterrupted sleep. Which is rare. I mean really rare. It’s not that I am not tired, good grief, I’m always tired. It is the thoughts and worries that run circles in my head when I try to go to bed or wake up in the middle of the night. Money, taxes, my career, the sump pump, etc.

I hadn’t thought about it for a long time, but I can remember with unusual clarity a few times as a kid not being able to sleep because I was worried about (in retrospect) weird things. I worried about burglars breaking into my house through the basement door which my bedroom was next to. After JFK was assassinated, I worried about the safety of my dad who was running for state representative. And one of the weirdest worries, I once woke up in the middle of the night worried that my brother was turning into a giant ant. It had something to do with swimming too much(??)  Different worries than worries as an adult, but the same results—not being able to go to sleep.

Which seems an overly long and unnecessary introduction to this beautiful book by Maggie Smith and illustrated by Leanne Hatch, My Thoughts Have Wings.

The head of our protagonist, a young girl, swirls with thoughts of her fears and concerns. They are the fears and concerns that to an adult might seem unfounded or even silly. But to her they are real and they keep her awake as the thoughts flutter and flap in her head. 

She worries about spiders—what if there is a colony of them living under her bed? How could she possibly sleep with that possibility?  

Likewise, how could she possibly sleep when her thoughts pepper her mind with the idea of being taken by aliens? 

There are more realistic worries as well, like day to day interactions at school. 

Her Mom knows when she is worrying. She tells her “Thoughts are like birds,” “some fly away quickly…but others build nests in our heads.”

Mom explains how that you have to make sure there is room for happy thoughts in your head. And they work to fill the girl’s head with happy thoughts.

This is a sweet and moving book brought to life by Hatch’s gorgeous illustrations. Painted digitally in an earthy and muted palette. Along with the digital brushes, she uses hand painted textures and layers on top of them creating joyous mixtures, soft and warm.

The book is illustrated almost entirely in two page spreads. They are beautiful and worth picking up the book just to thumb through it for that. My scanner can’t scan images large enough to share full spreads, so what you are seeing here are half-spreads.

The scenes and moods she creates on each spread is full and captures the exact moment in the story perfectly, from a worrying fear to the joy of to complete comfort. 

Her characters are familiar and engaging. You may believe you’ve known each of them for years. They are sweet, compelling and persons we immediately care about.

Again, this is a beautiful book. The simple and comforting text and the warmth of the art.

I’m guessing that virtually all of us have nights where worrying thoughts flap and flutter through our heads. I think what Smith writes here could help us all…

Let’s fill up with happy thoughts!

~kevan atteberry


  1. Love the illlustratios here. I most certainly will pick it up to see the full spreads. Thank you for sharing!

  2. This is in the pile o’ books I took out from the library this week. Really lovely!

  3. This is one to put on HOLD at the library! Thank you for the invitation to dive into this lovely book.

  4. What a beautifully illustrated book! Told with such heartfelt warmth and compassion for kids, who (of course) have their own worries. Great review–thank you for sharing!

  5. Will look for this one – lovely!

  6. Thank you for the thoughtful insightful review. I will be picking it up.

  7. Not an overly long introduction! It made me think of my childhood night time worries, too. How old were you when you had those worries you write about? Anyway, I’m reading this book. I do indeed think it would be good read for all of us! “My thoughts have wings” — I like that way in to a subject is talked about so much.

  8. Angie Quantrell

    Oh, nice! I still have those nights! If only there as a brain switch to turn it off. I’ll be watching for this book.

  9. Michael Henriksen

    Thanks for this wonderful preview (and totally relatable introduction!)
    As a fan of Hatch’s work, I’m looking forward to pouring over the pages of this sweet story.
    Thank you!

  10. The illustrations are beautiful I just put it on hold at my library and am looking forward to reading it. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Such an important book for kids!

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