Tag Archive: bedtime


midnight library

The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara

The Midnight Library only opens at night.  Then a little librarian and her three owl assistants help all sorts of animals find the right books.  The library was quiet and peaceful until a band of squirrels showed up looking for a place to practice.  Luckily, the library had an activity room where they could play music without disturbing anyone else.  It was quiet again until it started to rain, but it was raining inside the library.  It was Mrs. Wolf crying about something she read in a book.  The librarian and her assistants helped her finish the story and reach the happy ending.  Finally, it was time to close for the night and there was one very slow patron who would not leave, but the little librarian solved that situation happily too.  This is a clever and creative look at libraries and their services in a way that children will easily relate to.

Kohara is author of several other picture books all done in her signature style.  Here she cleverly takes a library and adds mystery by making it open at night.  The addition of animals as patrons also creates an interesting twist.  I also appreciated a library being depicted as a place that you can play music.  So often the focus is on the quiet and solitude, but this is one happening library!

Kohara uses the colors on the cover of the book throughout the story.  The deep blues and blacks are enlivened by the bright yellow-orange that forms most of the background.  Her use of printmaking techniques creates thick lines with an organic dappling effect.  These prints feel like woodblocks but have lines that swirl and curve unlike most block prints.

Clever, lively and great fun, this picture book is perfect for sleepy library fans.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

sleepyheads

Sleepyheads by Sandra J. Howatt, illustratedc by Joyce Wan

Head out on a journey in the night to find out where different creatures are sleeping.  Each one is tucked into the space they like best at bedtime.  There is the bear in his cave, the otter rocking back in the water, the pig in the hay, and many more.  Then the owl is on the page, not sleepy at all.  The book then turns to the house and the pets sleeping, but the little human bed is empty!  Where can that last little sleepyhead be?  Safe asleep in Mama’s arms. 

Simple and beautiful, this book has a gentle rhyme that soothes also with a rhythm that is like rocking to sleep.  Young listeners will get to identify the different animals as the pages turn, since the book leaves that up to the reader.  The quiet mystery of where the last sleepyhead is found is a wonderful little twist at the end, just right as children snuggle down to their own beds.

Wan’s art is dark and beautiful.  The night is lit with fireflies and the moon, the darkness deep and velvety but not frightening at all.  As the reader visits each dark page, there is always a source of light beyond that in the sky so that the characters themselves shine on the page. 

A wonderful bedtime read, this one shines with moonlight and dreams.  Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.

chengdu

Chengdu Could Not, Would Not, Fall Asleep by Barney Saltzberg

Chengdu is a young panda who is having problems falling asleep.  Unlike all of the other pandas who are sleeping soundly on nearby branches, Chengdu just can not drop off to sleep.  He tosses and turns.  He tries different positions, even hanging upside down!  It takes him awhile, but he finally finds a perfect spot, and one that will surprise and delight readers.  But then, another little panda finds himself awake and what is he to do?

Saltzberg brings readers a clever and funny story of a little animal who cannot fall asleep.  The text is very simple and paired with large format illustrations that sometimes just features Chengdu’s eyes and other times show the very tired little panda looking straight at the reader in despair.  The resolution of Chengdu’s dilemma is very funny and satisfying.  It is guaranteed to get a giggle or two even from the sleepiest of listeners.

An ideal bedtime story, this book will have the littlest listeners happy and sleepy.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

goodnight songs

Goodnight Songs by Margaret Wise Brown

A new collection of previously unpublished poems from the master Margaret Wise Brown are illustrated here by twelve different illustrators.  According to the introduction by Amy Gary, the editor of the Margaret Wise Brown Estate, these poems were part of a trunk of unpublished manuscripts that Margaret’s sister had in her barn.  They reflect the interest that Margaret developed towards the end of her life in creating music for children.  The book is accompanied by a music CD that brings the poems into song.  This book is just as enjoyable as a song book or a poetry book, make sure to try it out both ways!

Brown’s poems are simple and lovely.  Some of them read like nursery rhymes with plenty of repetition of phrase and style.  Others are a bit looser but still musical even as words.  She created small worlds in each song, offering lovely gems of moments in each one.  I have a handful of top favorites from the book:  “The Mouse’s Prayer” which is a beautiful wintry poem, “Wooden Town” that evokes a childhood joy of creating a little world of blocks, and “The Secret Song” which is a question and answer poem that is quiet and lonely.

The twelve illustrators make up some of the top illustrators in today’s picture books.  There is a great pleasure in turning the page and seeing an entirely different feel with the next poem.  Some are bright and sunny, others deep colored like the night, and still others filled with snow.  The styles reflect each of the illustrators and as a whole the book works extremely well, giving each poem a distinct note of its own on the page.

A top pick for children’s poetry, these songs are a dazzling collection from a very talented writer.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

may the stars drip down

May the Stars Drip Down by Jeremy Chatelain, illustrated by Nikki McClure

Quiet and lovely, this is a picture book version of the lullaby by indie rock band Cub Country.   That song is haunting and beautiful with its slow pace.  This book is much the same.  The lyrics to the song read as a poem on the page, one that takes a child on a journey of dreams before returning back home again.  It is a book designed for reading at bedtime in the same soothing pace as the song. 

McClure’s cut paper art adds to the beauty of the book.  Done entirely in blues and whites, the book invites children to twilight and darkness.  Throughout the book the night is celebrated in its beauty, from the moon on the sea to the the owl winging past.  There is a sense both in the poem and the art that you are seeing into the secrets of the evening.

A gorgeous new version of a song, this book is ideal for bedtime reading and dreaming.  Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Abrams Books.

hannahs night

Hannah’s Night by Komako Sakai

When Hannah woke up one day, she was surprised to find that it was still night.  She tried to wake up her older sister, but she would not wake up.  So Hannah headed downstairs with Shiro the cat.  She checked on her parents and they were asleep too.  Hannah gave Shiro some milk, ate some cherries right from the refrigerator, and no one scolded her.  When Hannah returned to her bedroom, she checked again on her sister.  Then she borrowed her sister’s doll, her music box, and her art supplies and played with them on her bed.  As dawn arrives, Hannah gets sleepy again and falls back asleep.

Sakai has created a beautiful little book filled with the glow of the moon and the delight of the night.  What is done best here is the lack of drama or danger.  Instead it is a story of small mischiefs and safety.  The stealing out of bed itself is enough to drive the story forward and keeps the book moving yet doesn’t make it scary or frightening at all.  The matter-of-fact tone of the writing also adds to the peaceful feel of the book.

Sakai’s art is rich and textured.  Layered and filled with the blues of night, the images have a radiant delicacy.  The combination of rough edges and the detail of sleepy eyelashes create a book that is beautiful to look at as well as a pleasure to share aloud.

A nighttime story, this is one bedtime story that may not keep little wanderers in bed but is worth sharing all the same.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

time for bed fred

Time for Bed, Fred by Yasmeen Ismail

It’s time for Fred to go to bed, but this dog is not ready!  Instead of heading to bed, Fred dashes outside and tries to hide in the flower bed.  Then he hides in a tree until he falls out of it.  Fred then runs and lands in a huge mud puddle.  So then it’s bath time for Fred.  But just when he’s finally clean, he dashes outside once more!  Back inside, he hides in all sorts of places, even after he gets read a bedtime story.  Finally, Fred is moved to the right bed and falls asleep at last.

Fred is a dog that every toddler will relate to.  From his busyness as he dashes from place to place to his unwillingness to head to bed to the final collapse in exhaustion at the end of the day, Fred reacts exactly the way a young child does.  Ismail keeps the book moving quickly with her dialogue-only text that captures the reaction of the owner as Fred refuses to head to bed.  This makes the book great fun to read aloud as well.

Ismail’s art is reminiscent of Chris Raschka with her loose lines and free-flowing forms.  It is filled with action and movement as Fred runs through the garden on the loose.  The illustrations have a great ease and freedom to them that works particularly well with the storyline. 

An energetic and playful bedtime read, let’s hope your little puppies settled down at the end too!  Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from library copy.

baby bear

Baby Bear by Kadir Nelson

Nelson returns with a picture book about a lost baby bear that showcases his luminous art work.  Baby Bear is lost and can’t find his way back home.  So he asks different animals about how to find his home again.  Mountain Lion suggests that he figure out how he got here.  Frog is rather busy, but tells Baby Bear not to be frightened.  The Squirrels suggest that he hug a tree.  Moose tells Baby Bear to listen to his heart.  Owl reassures him and Ram encourages him to climb high and keep walking.  Finally, Salmon leads him across the river and Baby Bear is home. 

Nelson writes with the tone of a folktale, a measured pace and a strong structure of questions and answers.  Told entirely in dialogue between the animals, the setting and action is left to the gorgeous illustrations to explain.  My favorite moment is the ending of the book where there is no family to meet Baby Bear, no structure of “home” for him to return to, just an understanding and a pure moment of realization that he IS home. 

Nelson’s art is stunningly lovely.  He uses light and perspective to really show the story.  We see Baby Bear from different angles, one amazing double-page spread just has a close up of his eyes with the moon reflected in them.  Each page is a treat visually, each building to that moment of already being home.

Shimmering and lush, this picture book will open discussions about what home is, mindfulness and following one’s heart.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

runaway hug

The Runaway Hug by Nick Bland, illustrated by Freya Blackwood

Lucy is all ready for bed and asks her mother for a hug.  When her mother jokes that is the last hug she has left, Lucy offers to borrow it and return it.  Lucy heads off to lend the hug to different members of her family, making sure to get it back each time.  Each hug is different, some tighter others smell like peanut butter.  When Lucy gives her dog a hug though, the dog runs off and Lucy is sure that she has lost her mother’s last hug forever. 

Bland and Blackwood make a great team for creating picture books.  Black’s tone is playful from the very beginning and one knows that this family is something special just from the way they speak to one another.  Throughout there is a sense of humor and an enduring affection for one another that permeates the book.  Bland also does a great job of keeping the book securely in Lucy’s point of view, so that readers know from the very beginning that Lucy is taking this last hug seriously.  There is no laughing at Lucy for this, rather it serves as the heart of the book and this imaginative play is celebrated.

Blackwood’s illustrations have fabulous soft lines that blur and flow.  Blackwood leaves some of her lines from sketching on the page, creating a sense of motion but also a feeling of the connected nature of the world right on the page.  She also adds to the warmth of Bland’s writing, her home that she places this family in filled with warmth, some clutter, and reality.

A beautiful pick for bedtime, just make sure you aren’t down to your last hug!  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.

night sounds

Night Sounds by Javier Sobrino, illustrated by Emilio Urberuaga

When the animals of the rain forest head to sleep, they are awakened by noises coming from a box.  The sound just goes on and on, “Wuaah, wuaah, wuaaah.”  Something is crying and won’t be easily comforted.  The animals do try to get it to be quiet, offering a blanket, water, and a doll.  But the crying only stops for a little while and then starts up again and again.  Finally Tiger heads off to find the mother.  Then the identity of the crier is revealed finally but there is more crying to come in a clever twist at the end.

Translated from the original Spanish, Sobrino does a great job of keeping readers guessing about the identity of who is crying in the box.  As each new sets of cries starts, their sounds change slightly and add variety to the book.  The structure of the book is based on repetition with some changes along the way.  It makes for a book that will work well for very small children but also has plenty of surprises for older preschoolers as well.

Urberuaga’s illustrations are filled with deep, rich colors.  They evoke the night beautifully and the animals sleepy eyes and lack of smiles show how very tired they are.  The reveal is cleverly done without any real visual hints, allowing it to be a complete surprise.

Great fun, this book could be made into reader’s theater with younger children and will also make a great bedtime story as long as a blanket, water and doll are provided ahead of time.  Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

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