Now with longer nights, reading at bedtime is a soothing and perfect time to settle down for sleep. Here are some perfect picture books for the end of the day, all for ages three to eight.
Mabel and the Queen of Dreams, by Henry, Joshua and Harrison Herz, and enchantingly illustrated by Lisa Woods, will surely draw youngsters into this magical story and court them to sleep. Young Mabel is resisting sleep by using excuses such as “I’m thirsty” or “I’m not tired.” Her mom knows just how to settle her down by telling her that “the Queen of the Fae won’t visit” until Mabel closes her eyes. Mabel soon discovers that these tiny magical fairies only visit children who are asleep and then she paints their dreams and glides along their legs and lips as they dream of movement and love. The poetic text glides along with the queen as young Mabel slowly drifts off to sleep. Here’s a favorite sentence that sets the tone of this savory story: “Her mom used the extra soft voice she saved for the best stories.” Here’s one word to describe this picture book: exquisite!
Take Ted Instead, by Cassandra Webb, and delightfully painted by Amanda Francey, is a simple story with few words that carry a repeating rhyming phrase. Mom states with a smile on her face, “It’s time for bed, sleepyhead.” Her young son responds with a rhyme that continues throughout the rest of the story. As he points to his dog, he replies to his mom, “No, no, take RED instead.” He points to his pet fish and says, “No, no, take ED instead.” This goes on throughout the rest of the story until he tells his mom to take Ted instead. So, mom begins to carry Ted, his large teddy bear, to bed. The boy soon changes his mind and heads to bed. There is a surprise waiting in his bed at the end. This book is not only good for a quick read at bedtime, but also excellent for new readers because of the simple rhyming and repeating pattern.
Ladder to the Moon, by Maya Soetoro-Ng, and painted with soft hues of blues and greens throughout by Yuri Morales, has a dream-like feel as the pictures evoke images when one is asleep. Grandma Annie has never met her granddaughter. But in a dream the little girl is whisked up a ladder to read on the moon where she peers down at earth with Grandma Annie. What she sees and how she feels evokes the tone of importance to family and members who have passed before. This book was first published back in 2011 and has recently been reissued in paperback form.
The Little Girl Who Didn’t Want to go to Bed, by Dave Engledow, may not necessarily help your children go to sleep right away but it may convince them why sleep is important. The story is hilarious and both parents and kids will chuckle throughout. The pictures are photographs of the many things the little girl does to keep from going to bed. The photos help make the book very funny and a perfect read-out-loud.
Buster and the Baby, by Amy Heat, and wonderfully illustrated with crayon and paint and then rendered digitally by Polly Dunbar, plays on the antics of a toddler girl and her small dog as she sneaks up on him as he hides and waits for her discovery. All through the bright cheerful day, emboldened with yellow and orange, the small girl zips around inside and out of her home playing with her dog, Buster. When evening comes, so does a silvery night and bedtime as the youngster snuggles up in her bed. But Buster has a surprise waiting for her. The simple text is punctuated with exclamations and onomatopoeias throughout.
Goodnight World, by Debi Gliori, begins every rhyming sentence with the declaration of Goodnight. “Goodnight ice and goodnight snow. Goodnight lights above, aglow.” The charcoal and watercolor paintings completely cover the open page and complete the quiet ending of day and the entrance of nighttime. This is a book perfect to settle down a day full of activity with the gentle caress of the earth going to sleep, from cars and trucks to animals in the zoo.
Way Past Bedtime, by Tara Lazar, and illustrated digitally by Rich Wake, takes on a big mystery for kids: what happens long after they have gone to sleep. Young Joseph decides to tackle this mystery head-on by staying awake. He has imagined his parents partying and enjoying all kinds of desserts such as “Whipped cream and sprinkled pies, colossal doughnuts with cotton-candy centers and sixteen-scoop ice-cream sundaes.” He becomes enamored with the music and flowing of desserts so that his imagination goes wild. But he is about to discover what his parents are really doing while he sleeps. This is great fun and may not help settle your youngsters down to sleep but they sure will enjoy it!
Pillowland, by Laurie Berkner, and illustrated with papercut artwork and detailing done with photoshop by Camille Garoche, is a popular song by Berkner and put into this beautiful picture book. The dreamlike images embed the essence of the rhythm of the words that seem to lift off each page. “A feather ocean and a blanket boat, we’re riding to a pillow castle through a quilted moat.” Soft dreams after reading this book will sublimely spark the imagination of restful sleep. You’ll find the music written out on the back over.