Queen Panda Can’t Sleep by Susanna Isern, illustrated by Mariana Ruiz Johnson (9781635920956)
When Queen Panda can’t sleep, none of her servants sleep either. After the Queen hasn’t slept for days, her servants send out a decree that anyone who can make the Queen fall asleep will win a bag of Chinese pearls. Many came to attempt to make the Queen sleep. She tried counting sleep from Mongolia, heard dull stories, listened to a lullaby from Paris. She swayed in a Kenyan hammock, was massaged with a branch from Australia, but nothing worked. Finally, someone came and yawned big, putting everyone else to sleep, except the Queen. With all of her servants fast asleep though, she had to cook her own meal and do other chores. Soon her eyes her drooping and she got sleepy!
This new twist on a traditional story where people are set a royal challenge has animals from around the world vying to put the Queen to sleep. With nods to a variety of cultures, the story is set in China with a very red-eyed panda as queen. The story sticks to the traditional format until the ending where the queen solves her own problem by getting busy and tired.
The illustrations have a folktale flatness to them that works well with the story. They have all sorts of animals in them from foxes to storks to cats and toads. The images use an interesting color palette of greens, oranges, and yellows.
A bedtime story that will hopefully have children snoring long before the Queen does. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
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.
Goodnight, Already! by Jory John and Benji Davies
Bear is so very tired, all he wants to do is go to sleep. But his next door neighbor, Duck, feels exactly the opposite and has never felt more awake as he reads a book on staying awake and drinks a pot of coffee. As Bear climbs into bed and pulls up his blanket, ready to snooze, Duck comes over for a visit. Duck offers all sorts of ideas of what they could do together, but all Bear wants to do is sleep. Just when Bear is again about to fall asleep, Duck returns with a new idea to bake something. But Bear once again sends him on his way. When Duck comes in for a third time, Bear has had enough! The evening though has time for one final ironic twist by the end of the book, one that will get readers giggling.
John captures both the very essence of being tired and wanting nothing more than to sleep and the zany energy that comes with insomnia. It is that dynamic being thrust together in this picture book that leads to the hilarity. It also helps that John has impeccable comic timing throughout the book, using repeating themes to really make the scenes pop. The pace switches from one character to the next beautifully, the dozy slow of Bear and the yapping zing of Duck.
Davies’ illustrations capture the same shifts in energy and pace. Duck’s entire home is bright yellow while Bear is surrounded by sleepy blues. The silly additions of coffee and a book to stay awake make the situation even funnier. The illustrations are deceptively simple, making this a very approachable book for children, one that conveys its humor right from the cover.
Perfect for kids who both love bedtime and hate it, as well as for their sleepy parents. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Elsa and the Night by Jons Mellgren
This strange and beautiful picture book is translated from the original Swedish. It is the story of Elsa who discovers the Night underneath her sofa one night just as she is counting the raisins in her cereal. So she tucks the Night into a cake tin and gives him some raisins too. Then she hides the cake tin down in the basement. With the Night trapped, day continues on and one without end. Finally, Elsa takes the Night out of his cake tin and starts to talk about how much she misses her best friend, an elephant named Olaf, who she met after a shipwreck. The explains how the two of them lived together and that now he is gone. About how she then moved to a lighthouse and stayed awake in the light night after night and has not slept for 30 years. The Night listens and then goes with her to visit Olaf’s grave and finally to lift her up and take her to her bed to sleep.
Filled with poetry, the text in this book is powerful. The story winds around, moving from the trapping of night into Elsa’s story of loss and finally to resolution. It is not linear, but an exploration of emotions and grief. It is a journey that is glowing, gentle and filled with lovely moments. In particular when the Night goes around and gathers up the sleepy people along with Elsa, there is such tenderness and love in that moment.
Mellgren’s art is modern and filled with bold graphical elements. The cut paper art is complex at times and simple in others, playing with light and dark as well as different shapes. the way that Night changes the page as he enters it is beautifully handled, his darkness spilling around him but able to be seen right through.
This unique story is luminous and impressive and will make a great bedtime story for children and parents who enjoy foreign picture books that aren’t the normal bedtime read. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
Lucy Can’t Sleep by Amy Schwartz
Lucy is in bed, but she just can’t fall asleep. First, she tries counting sheep and other animals, but that doesn’t work. So she climbs out of bed, puts on a sweater, stretches and wiggles. Then she heads out of her room to try and find her doll and bear. There they are in a chair downstairs. Lucy then heads to the kitchen and rummages in the fridge for a snack. She finds chocolate pudding and strawberry shortcake. Everything is very quiet in her house. Outside there is a squeaky door, a porch swing, and a radio playing. Then Lucy’s dog appears and they head inside. But Lucy isn’t quite ready for bed yet.
There is something old-fashioned and infinitely gentle about this book. Lucy’s parents never awaken to find her out of bed, instead she putters around on her own with no fear of the dark, of the quiet or of being alone. There is a great feeling of safety in this book with nothing startling or alarming in the least. It is a welcome difference from many picture books.
Schwartz’s writing is done in stanzas with repetition and rhythm making it into a poem. This makes it a great book for toddlers. Her art is filled with small details of Lucy’s life and home. It is all about warmth, familiarity and the small touches that mark a family’s life.
Safe, sweet nighttime adventures will have young listeners enjoying Lucy and her escapades out of bed. It will also make a nice addition to bedtime stories and story times. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.
A Good Knight’s Rest by Shelley Moore Thomas, illustrated by Jennifer Plecas
The Good Knight has had a very busy day of saving princesses and even rescuing a cat from a tree. He is worn out and weary and decides to go on vacation. When he goes to say goodbye to the dragons, they ask if they can come with him. Being the good knight he is, the Good Knight agrees to bring them along. As they travel, the dragons have them stop again and again to stretch and use the bushes. Each time, the knight does not want to stop but ends up finding a peaceful spot. Just when he starts to relax, the dragons want to leave again. So it goes again and again until finally the dragons realize that the knight really needs some rest and they solve the problem perfectly.
I have long enjoyed the Good Knight series with its gracious and patient Good Knight and the three rambunctious dragons. This book works particularly well with its strong structure, repetition and the ending that will have everyone smiling. Thomas writes with a great touch for pacing and an ear for repetition so that it adds to the humor and the tone of the book.
Plecas’ art is bright, colorful and engaging. Readers will be able to visually see the Good Knight getting more and more tired as they continue their travels. The wide-eyed dragons are never frightening, rather they are child-like and goofy.
A great book to take on your own summer vacation or to share at naptime or bedtime. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Dutton Children’s Books.
No Sleep for the Sheep! by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic
A very silly read-aloud that follows in the tradition of funny bedtime stories set on farms. Here, the sheep is very tired and wants nothing more than to go to sleep. But one by one, he is bothered by animals. First a duck, then a goat, a pig, a cow, and even a horse. And no one leaves for their own bed, but instead joins the sheep where he sleeps. And in the end, just when the sheep finally is able to fall asleep, there is one last noisy animal to wake him up. This time with a COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO!
Beaumont has created a text that reads aloud beautifully. It has a rollicking rhythm and a pattern that repeats again and again. This makes it ideal for toddlers and young preschoolers, who will enjoy the repetition. The humor of the text is delightfully simple, made from the silliness of animal noises and interruptions.
Urbanovic’s art adds a jolly tone to the book. The fuzzy and increasingly manic sheep, the rotund pink pig, and the mounds of sleeping animals add to the fun. The facial expressions of the animals are funny all on their own as well.
Add this to any farm story time or any bedtime story times you do. It will be enjoyed by small children with big senses of humor looking to avoid going to bed. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Back to Bed, Ed! by Sebastien Braun
Ed enjoys all that leads up to going to bed: playing with Dad, taking a bath, story with Mom, and getting tucked in. But once he was alone in the dark, he didn’t like it any more. So he would tiptoe out to his parents’ bedroom and climb in their bed to sleep. The problem was that his parents weren’t getting much sleep at all with him in there. Finally after sleeping through the alarm and getting up much too late, his parents decided that he could not sleep with them any more. Dad tucked him back into bed and made sure his nightlight was on. But still Ed could not stay in bed – that is, he couldn’t stay in bed until all of his stuffed animals joined him.
Braun’s book design is a joy to read. His round headed mice are charming as are the humorous touches he puts in the illustrations. From the baby dumping out its food unnoticed in the background to the favorite stuffed rabbit with the alarmed look on its face at all times, Braun has created a complete world here. His writing is a great length for young listeners who may also be dealing with being scared at bedtime. The writing too has a sense of humor and place.
Recommended for any family transitioning out of a family bed (planned or unplanned), all children will enjoy entering this world of friendly mice. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Peachtree Publishers.
Snore, Dinosaur, Snore! by John Bendall-Brunello
Three little dinosaurs wake up from sleeping on their mother’s spiny back. But their mother is still asleep. She doesn’t move when they prod and pinch her. She just continues to snore. They try tickling, clawing and elbowing her. More snores. Then they roll her over and slide her down a hill! Snores. After rolling down and splashing into a muddy puddle, she just might be waking up. But they won’t be sure until those snores turn into ROARS!
Simple and perfectly paced for a toddler audience, this book has the appeal of dinosaurs mixed with silliness and giggles. The little dinosaurs are mischievous. Children will delight in the thought of rolling a mother down a hill and into mud. And the reaction at the end is just loud and surprising enough to cap off this fun romp of a book.
Appropriate for ages 2-4, this book will be welcomed by young dinosaur enthusiasts and should not snore for long on any library shelf. Not with little dinosaurs around!
Reviewed from copy received from publisher.