The Moon’s Almost Here by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Tomie dePaola (InfoSoup)
A collaboration between a Newbery medalist and Caldecott Honor and Newbery Honor winner, this picture book is a dreamy bedtime read. As two people get ready for the moon to arrive, the animals around them are also preparing for bed. A hen gathers her chicks close and safe in their pen. The ducks head to the shore. Horses and cows head inside. Fireflies blink in the meadow. The dog and cat fall asleep. Then the moon has arrived, big and bright in the sky, just as the child falls asleep in the adult’s arms.
MacLachlan’s text is a poem that leads readers around the farm, from one animal to another as they prepare for bed. The animals are not anthropomorphic at all, but nicely realistic. She adds in touches of butterflies as well as the fireflies that echo the stars above. The entire effect is of tranquility and a slowing down as the evening arrives. It feels entirely natural and organic as it gets sleepier.
The illustrations by dePaola are filled with teals and blues, but also lit with moonlight. The adult character wears white with a white clown face as well that evokes Pierrot. It creates a surreal and dreamlike effect in the picture book, but is not frightening at all. The deep colors add to the nighttime quiet and sleepiness.
A superb bedtime picture book that works because of the virtuoso blend of poetry and illustration. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Margaret K. McElderry Books.
Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley, illustrated by Lauren Castillo (InfoSoup)
Lucy spent a long time playing at the beach with her mother and father. The three of them played in the waves, dug holes in the sand, and rolled down the dunes. Soon they were all yawning and Mom declared it was a day for early bedtime! As they got ready for bed, everyone was yawning and Lucy’s mom even fell asleep reading the bedtime book. In the middle of the night the moon shone brightly through Lucy’s window and she was suddenly wide awake. She tiptoed out of bed and through the living room where her father was asleep in a chair. Lucy was looking for Molasses, her bear. She found not only Molasses but all of her stuffed animals who all wanted to come with her to bed. Once again everyone was yawning, even the pictures on the wall, as Lucy fell asleep with her bed full of stuffed friends.
Smiley has done a brilliant job of capturing a day at the beach and then the wonder of being awake at night as a small child. She keeps the language simple, so this book can be shared successfully with very small children who will relate to the joy of playing at a beach, the quiet of early bedtime and then the pure loveliness of moonlight, tiptoeing to find a treasured toy and the imagination at play.
Castillo’s illustrations are glorious. She captures the brilliant light of summer sun at a sandy beach, the hours of play, and the languid sleepiness that rolls over you after a day like that. Her illustrations keep the dark night from being dangerous or frightening, instead keeping the house dimly lit and easily navigated. It is much more a delight than a fright to be alone and awake.
A lovely book of celebrating the warmth of both family togetherness and then the joy of being little and awake alone. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Two Lions.
What This Story Needs Is a Hush and a Shush by Emma J. Virjan (InfoSoup)
This second book in the A Pig in a Wig series keeps up the zany silliness of the first even though it’s a bedtime story. Pig is getting ready for bed still in her wig, brushing her teeth and combing her hair. She’s all settled into bed with her teddy bear when other animals start showing up and making noise. They all climb into the bed with Pig, but soon it is too much to take and Pig shushes them all and sends them back to the barn. Soon all is silent again until the owl outside Pig’s window starts to hoot. Where will she find a quiet place to sleep?
Just as with the first book, this book is written in a jaunty and bouncy rhyme that sets a brisk pace. Despite the silliness and the rhyme though, the book does slow down at the end in a natural way, becoming downright dozy by the end. The illustrations are simple and funny, particularly when all of the animals are piled high on the bed.
A great addition to beginning reader collections, this book had just the right mix of silly and sleepy. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.
Thank You and Good Night by Patrick McDonnell (InfoSoup)
Clement, Jean and Alan Alexander were having a pajama party at Clement’s house. The three bounce on the bed together, do the chicken dance, and have a funny-face contest. They played hide-and-seek, had a snack and watched the stars. They all started to get sleepy, so they got ready for bed but still had enough energy to listen to a bedtime story. They ended their party with a list of the things they were thankful for, a very long list.
McDonnell channels the energy and feel of every great classic bedtime read in this new book. He lets us in on the fun of a sleepover, focusing on all of the small things that make for a wonderful night with friends. His recap of the day with gratitude is something that many families can incorporate into their days, whether they are having a pajama party or not. It again returned the focus to those simple joys of life and time spent with one another.
The art has a gorgeous dreamy quality to it at times and other times has a zesty playfulness. The pleasure of the small animals playing with one another and not being sleepy at all transitions beautifully to sleepy creatures headed for bed. The final scene where they are revealed to be stuffed animals belonging to a little girl is particularly lovely.
A gentle bedtime story filled with lots of play and then bedtime for everyone. Yawn! Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Goodnight, Good Dog by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Rebecca Malone (InfoSoup)
The little dog knows when people are heading to bed. The light clicks off, quiet night noises start, and the moon comes up. But even though he has a wonderful warm bed, the little dog is not sleepy. He remembers his day filled with playing outside in the sun, running on the grass, and eating. He’s still not sleepy though, so he explores the house with the sleeping people. He climbs into his round bed, still not sleepy. Well, perhaps a little. And before he realizes it, he has slept all night and it is day again with plenty of time to play and eat once more.
This book is magnificent. It is simple yes but also offers a lot of depth. The writing is very special, using symbolism in a way that is appropriate for very small children. Ray beautifully ties together the quiet round of the moon with the warm round of the puppy’s bed with the hot round of the sun during the day. Yet this is not a concept book, it is a book about the magic of night and the lure of bedtime even if you are not sleepy. It is a book that explores words and emotions, that is dreamy and quiet and lovely.
The illustrations by Malone are done in acrylic. They are big and bold, the objects clearly outlined in black and just asking to be pointed to by small fingers and talked about. The little dog is enchanting, his head tipped to the side thinking or listening. He is childlike in his unwillingness to sleep and in his daydream of the day. The book is warm, quiet and cozy.
A delight of a dog story, this bedtime book has a quiet charm that is very special. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Goodnight, Grizzle Grump! by Aaron Blecha
Grizzle Grump is a huge bear who is ready to hibernate for the winter, but he has to find the right quiet place to do that. He’s so big that even his yawns can blow the other animals around. He tries to sleep in the trees first, going through an elaborate ritual of scratches, wiggles and flopping. Then he is asleep and snoring until the noises of the woodpeckers wake him up. He heads off to find another spot. But when he sleeps near the stream, the beavers are too loud. The gloomy swamp seems like a good choice until the frogs start to croak. He finally finds a snowy cave, far from everyone else. Then it is his turn to make huge snoring noises that drive everyone else away.
Blecha has created a great book to share aloud with a group. The humor is flawlessly presented in a way that makes it effortless to share. The ritual that Grizzle Grump goes through each time will have children giggling and is also something that you can get the audience to participate in. Inventive story time librarians will have children help make the noises of the woods and swamp with hands and feet.
The illustrations add to the humor from the bucktoothed squirrel who watches it all to the frenzied reaction of the bear every time he is woken once again. The wild energy of the story line is reflected in the illustrations with the noises themselves part of the art. Even the proportions of the huge bear and his little blanket and pillow add to the humor.
A glorious read aloud for autumn months or any bedtime, this picture book is a silly and cheery delight. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.
Beep! Beep! Go to Sleep! by Todd Tarpley, illustrated by John Rocco (InfoSoup)
A little boy helps his robots get ready for bed. First, they are herded into the bathroom where they brush their rotors and clean their shields. One robot even tries out the toilet. Then down the hall and into the bedroom they go, each one on a shelf with a blanket. It is quiet until Beep! Beep! The robots all want things like drinks. Then back to their beds and quiet again. It goes on and on, quiet and then beeping until finally the boy loses his temper. In the end though, one bedtime book is all it takes to get the boy off to sleep.
Tarpley has created a modern twist on the normal bedtime ritual. Here a boy takes the place of the parent, keeping his robots in line and moving towards bed. The complaints of the robots are lovely, each a riff on a classic bedtime request for more water, more light, and finally a story. The book is told in rhyme, one that is quiet at times and then other times filled with zing and snap. The most snap comes when the boy loses his temper.
Rocco’s illustrations are gorgeous. The three robots, each a primary color, all have distinct personalities and the ability to show some emotions on their metal faces. The boy is a throwback to an earlier age in his classic striped pajamas, evoking the fifties along with the classic robots. The entire house too has a vintage feeling to it, providing a clever backdrop to the very modern robot theme.
A perfect bedtime tale for robot fans, this picture book is sure to have even the sleepiest robot or child giggling. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Scritch Scratch Scraww Plop! by Kitty Crowther
Jeremy doesn’t like the dark. So when bedtime comes, he is just fine as he gets ready for bed. He’s happy when his father reads him a bedtime story and his mother comes in for a final hug and kiss. But once he is left alone in the dark in bed, he hears something. It’s a “scritch scratch scraww plop” and Jeremy is fairly sure that it is some sort of monster in his room. He goes to tell his father, but his father just moves him back to bed. Eventually after being unable to sleep after several tries, Jeremy climbs in bed with his parents. His father can’t sleep then, and goes to sleep in Jeremy’s room. And that is when he hears a “scritch scratch scraww plop!” He heads back to get Jeremy and the two of them go outside together to figure out what is making that noise.
Crowther takes a universal situation of being scared of the dark and places a lovely natural twist at the end. The fact that Jeremy is not making up or imagining the scary noise he is hearing is central to the story. Reading this book aloud is a treat with the “scritch scratch scraww plop” offering a great opportunity to add a little shiver into the room. The design of the book is old-fashioned and warm. I immediately thought of Jeremy Fisher by Beatrix Potter when I opened the book. The clear celebration of nature at the end of the book is a strong way to finish on a high note.
Crowther’s art is done in discrete panels on each page adding to the vintage feel. The art itself is jaunty and friendly. The pools of water on the floor that make up their carpet is funny and the real darkness on the page done in black is deep and adds to the scary feel when Jeremy is alone.
This import from Belgium will be welcomed as a bedtime story for those who have their own monsters and scary noises to deal with at night. It may also invite exploration out into yards and gardens to discover what is making those noises. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.
Everybody Sleeps (But Not Fred) by Josh Schneider
Every type of animals has to sleep whether on the farm or in the jungle or underwater, but not Fred. Fred has far too much to do to sleep at all. Fred has to do his important jumping. He has to break the world shouting record. He has to test his horn collection. He has so much to do, much to the chagrin of the sleepy animals around him who keep getting startled from his activities. It isn’t until parents start to read poetry to get children to fall asleep that Fred too succumbs to slumber. Now it’s up to young readers to be quiet enough to keep from waking Fred up and starting it all over again.
Schneider writes in rhyme, jaunty and confident. He invites readers to see different habitats for the animals as they snore and snooze. The pacing is deftly done in this book, allowing a slow build up to each activity that then becomes zany and silly. It’s that dichotomy of pace that makes for a book that is a joy to share aloud and one that will make any bedtime a lot more fun.
Also adding to the fun are the impeccable illustrations. They are complete irreverent and silly, with sleeping pigs with tattooed bottoms, monsters who brush their teeth, monkeys in tutus, and a toucan who appears throughout in unexpected places. The illustrations are worth spending lots of time with since they are filled with small details. Many of the animals continue to subsequent pages along with Fred, joining in his adventures.
Smart, funny and a great bedtime story, this picture book will amuse even the most resistant sleepyhead. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.