Sweet Dreamers by Isabelle Simler (9780802855176)
Enter the dreams of creatures around the world in this picture book. The dreams of the animals can be surprising like the sloth dreaming of racing and moving fast without moving at all. They can also be more logical, like the ant who dreams of dots marching in single file. Other animals are shown in their habitat and their unique way of sleeping like the swallow who sleeps while flying, the flamingo who has pink dreams, or the frog who sleeps in the mud. Each animal is given a short poem about their slumber, creating a book that is ideal for bedtime but fascinating enough to return to again and again.
Simler’s writing is exquisite. By using different approaches to the various animals, she creates a book that explores the wide variety of creatures in our world while focusing specifically on how they sleep. There are the animals who are prey that sleep looking for security and safety while the predators like the lion with a full belly don’t need to worry about that. The illustrations in the picture book are equally successful with their touches of neon orange illuminating the night. Done in fine lines, the pages use their mostly black backgrounds very successfully as the creatures shine against it.
A delightful mix bedtime and beasts. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from copy provided by Eerdmans.
Feet Go to Sleep by Barbara Bottner, illustrated by Maggie Smith
In a house on the beach, Fiona doesn’t want to go to sleep. She’s had such an amazing day that she doesn’t want it to end! But she is just a little tired after all that they’ve done. As she climbs into bed, she starts with her toes, telling them to go to sleep. She tells her feet next, remembering how they loved stomping in the waves. Then come her knees that had held her strong on the sand as she build a castle. Her legs are the next to go to sleep, after spending the day running. Her tummy ate lots of berries during the day and goes to sleep too. Fiona works her way all the way up to her ears, eyes and mouth, until finally her mind is quiet enough to sleep.
With a proven technique, Bottner demonstrates a way that children can calm themselves at bedtime by both taking control of their body and mind but also celebrating the day that they have had. The book shows the technique clearly rather that teaching it to the adult separately. This approach to bedtime is simple and calming, creating moments where child and parent can share what they found joy in during their busy day. Fiona’s mother stays with her for most of the process, but leaves as Fiona finishes on her own, shutting her ears and eyes to the activity around her and drifting gracefully off to sleep.
Smith’s illustrations use an inset image to show in the large portion of the picture the grand and sunny day that Fiona has experienced and then in a smaller and darker image Fiona putting a body part to sleep that matches the activity of the larger picture. The book shines with the joy of a beach vacation captured in all of its wild colors and sun. Yet at the same time it is an immensely soothing book with its focus on quiet and calm.
A bedtime book that just might result in actual sleep! This picture book shows a different way for parents to approach bedtime wiggles. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from digital copy received from Edelweiss and Knopf Books for Young Readers.
It’s Only Stanley by Jon Agee (InfoSoup)
Something odd is happening tonight in the Wimbledon house. There are mysterious noises. The first noise is Stanley the dog howling at the moon. But then new noises start. The clanking noise is Stanley fixing the oil tank in the basement. A little later, the funky smell that makes the cat ill turns out to be Stanley cooking catfish stew in the kitchen. The buzzing noise is Stanley fixing the family’s old TV in the living room. Splashing noises are Stanley fixing the plumbing. Each noise wakes up the human family and the father has to head out to see what is happening. But just as everyone is starting to get very cranky from loss of sleep, something happens that shows exactly what Stanley has actually been up to all night.
Agee is a master at creating understated books that have a distinctive feel about them. Here he takes a strong matter-of-fact tone and uses it to add to the silliness of the entire book. Told in natural-feeling rhyme, the book has a buoyant tone that makes it great fun to share aloud. Throughout the book the father heads out each time without much emotion and returns to report that it is just Stanley and what the dog is up to. The oblivious family heads back to bed only to be awoken again and again. This builds wonderful tension until it’s released with a literal bang.
Agee’s art is done in his unique style with flat color and thick black lines. Throughout, readers will be able to watch for clues as to what Stanley is actually up to and readers who are paying close attention will figure it out before the family does. Even those children who don’t piece together the clues will want to re-read the story to notice them. Also keep an eye on the cat who seems to always get into the worst of it as the story progresses.
Not a bedtime story despite being set at night, this picture book is strikingly funny and has a grand warped feeling throughout. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.
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 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.
Tippy and the Night Parade by Lilli Carre
Released February 11, 2014.
In the morning when she wakes up, Tippy’s room is a complete mess. But all Tippy remembers is falling asleep, how did this all happen? The next night, she goes to bed as usual after cleaning up her room. And then readers get to see exactly what happens when Tippy goes sleepwalking along a pier, across the garden, hopping on lily pads, lost in the fog and trees, down a hole, into the desert, up a mountain and back down to her window. Just to wake up the next morning again without knowing what happened.
Carre lets her images tell the majority of the story in her debut graphic novel. And the images are a smart mix of modern with a vintage flair. They have a flatness to them that adds a quirky quality to the book. They also have a great sense of humor as the parade builds in length and more animals are included. My particular favorite is the rotund bear. And what a parade it is, sharp-eyed readers will enjoy looking at the mess in her room and matching the animals that had joined her walk back home.
Funny and quirky, this parade is one worth marching along with. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Toon Books.
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.
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.