Prime Time Bedtime

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Prime Time Bedtime

Reading aloud for sweet dreams

Make bedtime stories special with these unique page turners. I chose these for the high levels of interaction they encourage, and their subtle, or obvious, lessons in how to enrich those sleepy 20 minutes of the day. With images and words at times funny and always affirming, they can lead to pleasant thoughts of tomorrow. Some may become you and your child’s favorites.

When Mermaids Sleep by Ann Bonwill arrests the eye with sleeping storybook characters – unicorns, mermaids, dwarves, serpents. Illustrators Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher go all out, using their artistic license to the hilt as liberal spreads of color fill the pages, each offering up snoring pirates, sleeping fairies and more. All the different landscapes cleverly build on each other, tied together by lyrical prose.

I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow, addresses a child’s self-esteem, as it celebrates “beaver breath”, “knobby knees” or the “silly nut” looking back at oneself in the mirror. There is a furry four-legged friend in each picture, adding a buddy to the delight of being unconditionally loved. Here in this book is a big message about self-acceptance, so proving to be a useful tool for mindfully reflecting on, and discussing the unique beauty of the self.

Touch the Brightest Star, written and illustrated by Christie Matheson, presents simple finger friendly instructions to little readers, rewarding the page turner with an unfolding starry night sky. First, the sun sets and a dark firefly is on the canvas. If he is touched, he lights up on the next page. In a similar way, events happen seemingly under the control of the little reader, for example touching a couple owlets puts them to sleep, and later on, a big dipper is traced out, and looks like a spoon. This book satisfies a reader's urge to draw on the page, so participating in the unfolding of its images with each page turn. Useful and interesting facts about features of the night like poppies closing their petals, and fireflies flashing to attract friends, are appended.

The Bear in the Book by Kate Banks, illustrated by George Hallensleben, describes a black bear’s activity as winter approaches. It is the favorite story of a little boy about to go to bed himself. Spreads of color fill the pages, and the reader engages with them to find hidden animals in the detail, encouraged always by his mother. There is as much dialogue between the parent and the child about what is being read, as there is story content.

Don’t Blink by Amy Rosenthal, illustrated by David Roberts, captures an engaged reader with a startling suggestion – bedtime can actually be avoided. Hilarious and engaging illustrations depicting an owlet’s eyes in a variety of poses follow the battle against bedtime. This encourages squinting, staring, and inevitably, closing the eyelashes down, as the battle to avoid sleep is lost.

If You Were the Moon by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Jaime Kim starts off with an innocent exchange of words between a little girl and the full moon. Then, in the following pages, the girl is regaled by said moon who explains in age appropriate beautiful poetical language, what she does in the sky. On each page that follows, science facts explain the preceding poetical descriptions. For example, a “spin like a twilight ballerina” becomes the rotation of the lunar axis, how it relates to the lunar month of 27 days, and what the “dark side of the moon” really means. Three levels of learning exist in this book – the artistry of words, wonderful images and sturdy science facts – to delight adults too.

Reading Owl Babies by Martin Waddell creates a night time forest in the imagination. All the dialogue is intended to comfort the youngest owl sibling, who is concerned about an absent parent bird. Two older owls have to reassure, and when finally the family is complete with mama owl’s return, celebration sparkles through the artwork. With its illustrations that captivate, the true-to-life rendering and expressive countenances give a satisfying end to the story.

A Book of Sleep by II Sang Na emphasizes the universality of sleep, and shares different animals’ habits using succinct prose. Shhhh, the owl on every page is as quiet as can be, while his friends are all asleep. Look for him!

Goodnight Already by Jory John and Benji Davies uses a duck and a bear in high drama -- one is determined to stay awake, the other to fall asleep. The deceptively simple conflict turns into hilarity as duck breaks into his friend’s locked house, bear turns grouchy and the final reversal of fortune brings about mirth. I loved the detail of a book cleverly present in duck’s wings at the beginning and then again at the end of this story.

I Just Want to Say Goodnight by Rachel Isadora opens with a daughter greeting her dad after his return from a successful fishing trip. Then the girl Lala is summoned to bed by her mother but she avoids the direct route to her own sleep hut by cleverly attending to the business of saying good night to the cat, the bird, the goat, the monkey and so on. There is a quiet determination, a similarity to the tactics other children use to achieve the same ends. The vibrancy is arresting depicted in the African village scenes, the plants, and the animals. A satisfying climax is reached when Lala pulls out a familiar, children’s classic “Goodnight Moon” and whispers her final goodnight.