Kid's Stuff -- Books About Napping, Bedtime & Sleep
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"Close Your Eyes"
Written by Kate Banks
Illustrated by Georg Hallensleben
(Frances Foster Books, 2002)

It's naptime for a bouncy little tiger, but the kitten wants to stay up and the mama tiger has to talk it into going down... The kitten asks a million little questions like, if I close my eyes, will I be able to see the sky? and the mother patiently encourages it to use its imagination and dream sweet dreams. Simply written, with boldly colored, eye-popping artwork, this is a lovely little book. My only complaint is that it dwells on anxieties that my child didn't already have (fear of the dark, for example) so we had to skip a few pages worth of text to keep the soft, reassuring tone going. (However, if you have a child working through some of these issues, this would be a good book to use to address them...) A winner: I was asked to read it again and again. (A)


"Goodnight, Moon"
Written by Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrated by Clement Hurd
(Harper Collins, 1947)

Whether it's a classic or not, I'm not such a big fan of this ubiquitous, widely revered book, although it does seem to lend itself to intimate bedtime readings. The richness of detail gives you lots to talk about, but the writing is a pretty choppy. However, if you find this one lulling and enchanting, then welcome to the somewhat vexing world of the Margaret Wise Brown ouvre. A lot of her other books are just plain weird, and rather ineffective as narrative works. This is certainly one of the best, but you will be amazed at how strange many others are...
Me: (B-)
The rest of the world: (A+, apparently..)


"No Nap!"
Written by Eve Bunting
Illustrated by Susan Meddaugh
(Clarion, 1989)

Chaos rules when Dad takes care of little Susie for the day, and she refuses to take a nap. He tries all sorts of strategies to tire her out, placate or cajole her, but eventually it's dear old Dad who passes out, and Susie who's awake when Mama gets home. The story rings true, but it may still make a few parents uneasy to read a book that models so many different strategies (and excuses) for not going to bed. Still, it's pretty charming -- nice punchline at the end! (B)


"Naptime For Slippers"
Written by Andrew Clements
Illustrated by Janie Bynum
(Dutton Books, 2005)

One of the books in the "Slippers" series. The formula is more strained here, as Slippers can't fall asleep and gets in all sorts of mild misadventures as he tosses and turns and flops his little puppy paws out of his doggy bed. This one didn't do much for me, but it's inoffensive and doesn't have any objectionable material, if "family" entertainment is a priority, this won't expose your kid to anything icky or weird. But it's not a very good book, either. (C-)


"Sweet Dreams, Maisy"
Written by Lucy Cousins
Illustrated by Lucy Cousins
(Candlewick, 2005)

A going-to-sleep book featuring the world's second-most marketable cartoon mousie... As with most "Maisy" titles, there's not much of a plot, although the text gets a little flowery and poetic while describing the twinkling of the stars, etc. Not a great book, but inoffensive and visually appealing... About what you'd expect from the "Maisy" franchise... (Although there is some speculation that this might not actually be Cousins' artwork... Both seem atypical from the rest of the "Maisy" ouvre. ) (B-)


"The Prince Won't Go To Bed"
Written by Dayle Ann Dodds
Illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker
(Farrar Straus Giroux, 2007)

Ms. Dodds is consistently one of my favorite children's book authors -- her ideas are engaging and she knows how to make interesting, humorous rhymes that scan well and are a delight to read. This new book is one of her best since the country-themed classic Sing, Sophie, and is sure to enchant many a small reader. It's a medieval-themed tall tale about a royal Prince who cannot fall asleep, no matter what the various castlefolk try. His parents are out for the night, and the first thing the babysitting nanny tries is a fun game of patty-cake, but when the Prince doesn't fall asleep, one of the courtiers suggests a bath... Then a squire suggests a softer pillow... The cook whips up a little snack... The royal guard brings some fluffy mattresses... Nothing works, though, until the prince's older sister comes in and gives him a goodnight kiss, and -- finally having his bedtime ritual completed, the Prince finally gets snoozy. The story has a nice structural formality to it, and the constant refrain after each attempt (Wah! Wah! Wah! I will not go to bed/The teeny-tiny, itty-bitty, little Prince said...) has everything you could want in a children's book chant -- it's catchy and fun to read, it's cute, it's easy for kids to remember, and it has a whiff of naughtiness, too. This book reunites Dodds with illustrator Kyrsten Brooker, whose collage style creates an earth-toned, cozy castle packed with odd and interesting items. This one was a big hit at bedtime -- "read that again" material for many nights to come! (A)


"Time For Bed"
Written by Mem Fox
Illustrated by Jane Dyer
(Gulliver, 1993)

A top-notch going-to-sleep book, with beautiful illustrations and a gentle, soothing, effective rhyme pattern. A mother coos to her child, telling her how each of the animal babies are falling asleep, all across the world -- lambs, deer, cats, birds, even sleepy, scaly snakes. The text verges on the ooey-gooey, but that's okay, it's supposed to. The delicate, flowing rhythm of the verses will enchant little readers for many months, and help instill a love of language as well. Recommended. (PS - we have it in board book form; it's a well-chewed book.) (B+)


"Bedtime For Frances"
Written by Russell Hoban
Illustrated by Garth Williams
(Harper Collins, 1964)

A longtime classic, although I admit, it's not a book that I'm wild about. Frances is a wildly appealing character, the cutest darn little badger girl ever. A big part of it may be the fine drawings by Garth Williams, although the text itself is fraught with problems. When it's time to go to sleep, Frances procrastinates endlessly and misbehaves. Partly it's due to legitimate reasons -- she says she's afraid of the dark, etc. -- and partly she's just being a little punk. However, things finally come to a head when her parents, at wit's end, wind up spanking her sending her back to bed. So, let's review: misbehavior, dishonesty, new anxieties, corporal punishment. Might not be for everyone, particularly for parents whose kids don't act this way, and for parents who don't believe in spanking as a form of discipline. This was a big disappointment to me, one of those books they had around when I was a kid that I remember liking, but am kind horrified by as an adult. (Maybe it's because I read this that I'm the mess I am today? Scary thought!) (C-)


"Time To Say Goodnight"
Written by Sally Lloyd-Jones
Illustrated by Jane Chapman
(Harper Collins, 2006)

A sweet, simple goodnight-little-animals book, with rhyming text and pretty, pastoral pictures... Very similar to Mem Fox's Time For Bed, with all the baby animals in the forest going to bed at the same time as the little kid at the end of the book. This has the added charm of Jane Chapman's ever-appealing illustration style: the text scans well, but also, who can resist all those smiley-faced, cartoony critters with the little India-ink dot eyes? A nice one! (B+)


"Tucking Mommy In"
Written by Morag Loh
Illustrated by Donna Rawlins
(Orchard, 1987)

A sweet story about two girls whose mommy gets so tired at bedtime that she falls asleep before they do, while the big sister is telling a story. They rouse her from the little sister's bed, walk Mommy to her room, help her get undressed (a panel showing the mother's bra may be objectionable to some readers) and tuck her in so she can sleep. When daddy gets home they tell him the whole story, and he helps tuck them in goodnight. A nice, realistic slice-of-life story that will ring true for any overtired, semi-comotose parents out there. (Though, perhaps there are some of us won't be willing to admit our weakness to our kids... We are gods! We never tire! The part where the kids order pizza and break out the Nintendo is not shown in this book. (A)


"Froggy Goes To Bed"
Written by Jonathan London
Illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz
(Penguin/Viking, 2000)

Well, he's supposed to go to bed, but he keeps finding reasons to stall. He needs a glass of water, a snack, etc. Bad role modeling, at least for parents who want to discourage this kind of pre-sleep behavior. Froggy turns red in the face when he drops the water glass. Mom is so tired she falls asleep reading the goodnight story... and then Froggy goes to sleep! Hah, hah, hah! If used as a springboard for discussion, this could be useful... But if your kid hasn't already figured out a bunch of ways to wheedle their way out of bedtime, why put bad ideas in their head? (C)


"Sleepy Me"
Written by Marni McGee
Illustrated by Sam Williams
(Simon & Schuster, 2001)

Written in simple, dreamy phrases, this book shows a little girl getting tired and going to sleep. The artwork is appealing, although the tone of the text is a bit too sugary-sweet. A nice sleepytime book, though somewhat cloying and precious, and no real plot. This met with a muted, somewhat polite response. Probably best suited to really small kids and infants. (B-)


"Wake Up Me"
Written by Marni McGee
Illustrated by Sam Williams
(Simon & Schuster, 2002)

The follow-up to Sleepy Me, this has a similar feel, but is a little more interesting because it celebrates morning and wake-up rituals... Of the two, this was our favorite. Again, the artwork is really appealing and easy to comprehend, and the tone is really sweet. Too sweet for some, I'm sure, but if you're up for it, this is a nice little book. (B)


"Ten Little Lambs"
Written by Alice B. McGinty
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
(Dial Books/Penguin Putnam, 2003)

A cute counting/bedtime book as ten children at a sleepover transform, in one child's sleepy imagination, into ten little lambs who drop off, one by one, into sleep amidst all sorts of playing and mischief. There are a couple of rough patches in the rhyming text, but the artwork -- by eBoo founder, Melissa Sweet -- is delightful, packed with giddy details and visual storytelling. Each panel shows which lambs are awake and which have fallen asleep, as well as one or the other who yawns or gets droopy-eyed, sure to be konked out on the following page. A rich experience for image-oriented readers, and a fine way to usher in sleepytime as well. (B)


"Good Night, Engines"
Written by Denise Dowling Mortenson
Illustrated by Melissa Iwai
(Clarion, 2003)

A simple, colorful celebration of all things vehicular... This book alternates between double-page spreads with carpet-level views of a boy playing with his cars, trucks, planes, etc. and realistic pages that show the world he imagines as he plays with his toys. Not much to the text, but the book will probably ring true for kids who are into machines and things that "go!" (Followed in 2007 by the sequel, Wake Up, Engines!) (B)


"Wake Up, Engines!"
Written by Denise Dowling Mortenson
Illustrated by Melissa Iwai
(Clarion, 2007)

(B)


"Don't Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus"
Written by Mo Willems
Illustrated by Mo Willems
(Hyperion, 2006)

(-)


"Buzzy's Big Bedtime Book"
Written by Harriet Ziefert
Illustrated by Emily Bolam
(Blue Apple/Chronicle Books, 2004)

Boy, was this one a big hit! It had been a while since we'd had a book that made our kid go, "read it again!", much less one that wound up being read ten times in one day. This slim volume about a little kid who takes a bath and then doesn't quite want to go to sleep rings a universal chord... Plus, it's just so darn cute! Great artwork; the actual text is a litte clunky, at least the rhyming meter is... But the story is a winner. Like Maisy, Buzzy is one of those instantly loveable, thick-lined cartoon characters that kids go ga-ga over... Parents will, too! This was a nice book, definitely worth checking out! (A)


"Sleepy Book"
Written by Charlotte Zolotow
Illustrated by Stefano Vitale
(Harper Collins, 2001)

A lovely going-to-bed book, with a gentle, lulling, almost haiku-like text discussing how various animals fall asleep, culminating with a human child, tucked in bed. While the text is quite nice, it's the artwork that's most striking here, beautiful paintings laid atop a wooden canvas, so that you can see the grain of the wood underneath every panel... It's an unusual and distinctive style. All in all, a very classy book. (A)


"When Sheep Sleep"
Written by Laura Numeroff
Illustrated by David McPhail
(Harry N. Abrams, 2006)

A sleepytime book that hinges on the bold, compelling, magical artwork of David McPhail (a longtime favorite...) Author Laura Numeroff, best known for the If You Give A Mouse series, comes up with a lovely premise -- what do you count if the sheep are already asleep? Unfortunately, her writing is stiff and overly static, and pulls the story sideways. Numeroff inflexibly repeats lines that aren't elegant, and clings to the same sort of cause-and-effect, if-this-then-that presentation of her earlier work. It's a clunky formula, and doesn't match the sweetness and charm of McPhail's art, or support the dreaminess of the concept. I'd count this one as an almost-not-quite, although I'm sure many families will find it enchanting. Six of one, half dozen of the other. (B-)


"The Bunnies Are Not In Their Beds"
Written by Marisabina Russo
Illustrated by Marisabina Russo
(Random House/Schwartz & Wade, 2007)

A delightful bedtime book about a trio of young bunnies who keep getting out of bed to play with their toys and march around, even though lights-out took place a loooooong time ago. The mommy and daddy rabbits keep coming back upstairs to see what all the noise is about, and though they play it cool at the beginning, after the fifth or sixth trip, they start to lose their tempers. This is one of those rare books, like Where The Wild Things Are, where minxy little children more or less win and get away with their misbehavior, and that's just fine, really: it's what makes the story so delicious. An interesting departure for Russo, whose earlier books also show kids in their natural state, but tend to be more reality-oriented (ie, no cute animals) She's got a feel for fantasy, and knows little kids pretty well... A winner around our household (and constantly requested at bedtime, of course...!) (B+)


"Don't Let The Pigeon Stay Up Late"
Written by Mo Willems
Illustrated by Mo Willems
(Hyperion, 2006)

(-)


"The Napping House"
Written by Audrey Wood
Illustrated by Don Wood
(Harcourt/Red Wagon, 1984)

A satisfying sleepytime book where one thing leads to another, and disaster leads to delight. One day, in a big house, a grandma is taking a nap, then the grandchild climbs on top of her, then the dog snuggles up on the kid, and then a cat, and then a mouse... all of them piled up, one on top of the other. Alas, a sneaky little flea bites the mouse, and the whole house of cards falls apart, with energetic, explosive hilarity. The child and the granny laugh it off, and then go outside to play, keeping everything on a light note. I'm not wild about the artwork, but this is a great book for the littlest readers to enjoy. It was requested to be reread several times... Recommended! (B)


"Buzzy's Big Bedtime Book"
Written by Harriet Ziefert
Illustrated by Emily Bolam
(Blue Apple/Chronicle Books, 2004)

Boy, was this one a big hit! It had been a while since we'd had a book that made our kid go, "read it again!", much less one that wound up being read ten times in one day. This slim volume about a little kid who takes a bath and then doesn't quite want to go to sleep rings a universal chord... Plus, it's just so darn cute! Great artwork; the actual text is a litte clunky, at least the rhyming meter is... But the story is a winner. Like Maisy, Buzzy is one of those instantly loveable, thick-lined cartoon characters that kids go ga-ga over... Parents will, too! This was a nice book, definitely worth checking out! (A)


"Sleepy Book"
Written by Charlotte Zolotow
Illustrated by Stefano Vitale
(Harper Collins, 2001)

A lovely going-to-bed book, with a gentle, lulling, almost haiku-like text discussing how various animals fall asleep, culminating with a human child, tucked in bed. While the text is quite nice, it's the artwork that's most striking here, beautiful paintings laid atop a wooden canvas, so that you can see the grain of the wood underneath every panel... It's an unusual and distinctive style. All in all, a very classy book. (A)




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