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.
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 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 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.
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.
Once Upon a Northern Night by Jean E. Pendziwol, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
This glimmering book takes a lingering and loving look at a Canadian winter night. It starts just before the snow begins to fall, one flake then more. Then the ground is covered with a snowy blanket, a blanket just like the one you are sleeping under. The book goes on to talk about the beauty of the winter forest, snow that will dust your head and nose as you pass under the trees. Animals appear; the deer munch on the frozen apples, a great gray owl silently drifts by, rabbits scamper only going still when the fox walks past. The book continues to talk about the beauty of the snow once the sky clears, the patterns of frost on window panes. It ends with the dazzle of the snowy morning.
As a native of Wisconsin, this Canadian import speaks directly to my love of winter evenings, nights and days. This lullaby of a book opens each poetic stanza with “Once upon a northern night…” and then leads into another beautiful wonder that is present there. Northern readers will see their own love reflected here, others will start to understand the beauty and exquisite nature of winter. Pendziwol plays with imagery and truly finds the wonder in each moment she captures. It is pure beauty, glittery as snow but oh so much warmer.
Arsenault’s illustrations are done in nighttime sepia tones, the color drained away except for pops of frozen apples, owl eyes, fox orange and deep night sky blues. The snow itself makes up much of the images, dancing in the air, covering branches, capturing footprints. One can almost feel the coldness seep from the page. Then there is the final page with morning arriving that is suddenly color and ends the book just perfectly with its icy shimmer.
This picture book is perfect for a bedtime story curled up near the fire or under toasty warm blankets as the snow falls. It is a quiet and lovely book, one to treasure and share. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Steam Train, Dream Train by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
The author/illustrator team that brought you the bestselling Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site returns with another gorgeous transportation-themed bedtime book. The cheerful rhyme invites children to explore the different types of train cars and what sorts of items are stowed in each one. This is done by a monkey crew who move monkey bars into the boxcars with tumbling moves and lots of bananas. The hopper car is filled with bouncy balls by kangaroos and a helpful giraffe. Elephants squirt paints into tankers with their trunks, each train car a different color. The cold reefer car holds ice cream treats as well as polar bears and penguins. Gondolas are filled with sand, beach balls and toys. The autorack has lots of fast racecars. The well cars have dinosaurs and their lunches. Finally there are the flatbeds made into beds and the red caboose, the train heads off to a new day.
First let me comment on the endpages which are done in train engineer cloth pattern and really invite young train enthusiasts to read on. The book has that wonderful rhyme that is playful and youthful, dancing along merrily to the beat. That sense of play is evident throughout the book, as the different animals load the train with things that will interest very young readers. All of it has a silly tone that makes it great fun to read.
Lichtenheld’s illustrations add to that silliness with small touches that are such fun to discover. Done in a soft yet rich style, the illustrations invite you to dream along with the book. Their deep color captures the nighttime setting while the softness will have little heads snuggling in close.
A worthy companion to the first book, get this into the hands of little engineers and fans of Thomas the Tank Engine. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.
Again! by Emily Gravett
It’s nearly bedtime and that means a bedtime story. Mama dragon and little dragon curl up together to share the story of the bright, red dragon Cedric who has never gone to bed. When they finish, the little dragon asks for it “Again?” Mama dragon agrees and readers will see another full page of the book that tells more about Cedric and his not sleeping. Mama reads it one more time before falling asleep herself. Readers will notice the little dragon getting redder and redder just as Cedric in the story is turning back to green. But this little dragon has a burning desire for one more story that leads to a fiery ending.
Gravett cleverly reaves two parallel stories together here. There is the main story of the little dragon who wants to be read to over and over again. Then there is the story of Cedric in the book that Mama dragon reads. The two play off of one another, with tension in one ebbing as the other picks up.
The art is just as clever. Towards the end, the little dragon shakes the book in disgust and the characters take a tumble across the pages. This leads to the surprise of the ending, which is sure to delight young readers.
A perfect ending for a story time, this book is one that young children (and dragons) will want to read AGAIN! Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Sleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
This is the story of a little girl who just wasn’t sleepy at bedtime. Her parents agreed that she didn’t have to head right to bed, but she did have to put on her pajamas. Then she had to wash her face, and that felt good. She climbed into bed, because she loved the feeling of the sheets. Then she asked about whether everything in the world sleeps. Her parents explain that yes, like the dog being asleep on the couch where he shouldn’t be. The book turns to explain about different animals and how they sleep from the upside down bats to floating whales to hibernating bears. After talking, her parents let her stay awake in her bed. The little girl begins to sleep like each of the animals, curling up like the dog, folding her arms like bat wings, finding the warmest spot like a cat. Until finally, she is asleep like the strong tiger.
Oh what a bedtime story! I had heard great things about this book and at first saw beautiful illustrations and a fairly normal story, but that changes and becomes something very special. Once the little girl is in bed and talking about the animals, the language becomes more poetic and filled with imagery. It is warm, cozy and infinitely inviting.
Zagarenski’s illustrations have a richness about them that enhances this bedtime tale. Thanks to the golden crowns, they have an illuminated manuscript feel. There is plenty of texture and pattern, but also a modern zing to the illustrations. They are entirely winning.
This glorious bedtime story is a real treat to read aloud. Get your own jammies on and cuddle up, I promise you will be dozing in no time, just like a tiger. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.