For quite some time I've been toying with the idea of starting a series using picture books, each one with a common theme, which combine older titles with recent titles. When you've had the opportunity to read many books over decades, it's interesting to see patterns and to pair similar books together. When participating in the Picture Book August 10 for 10 this past summer, I wrote about and selected titles highlighting the welcome quiet at the end of the day when parents, guardians and caregivers can share books at and about bedtime with children. Here are seven recommended titles, three more than twenty-eight years old and four released within the last six months of 2015.
Goodnight Moon (Harper & Row, 1947) written by Margaret Wise Brown with illustrations by Clement Hurd
You have to stop and wonder how many times this book has been read to children in the past sixty-nine years. The first four lines refer to colors and well-known objects and the next several phrases focus on nursery rhymes and a fairy tale. There is comfort in the familiar. A rhythm is established with the repetition of goodnight followed by listing items inside and outside the room. It's a lullaby of gratitude.
In the great green room
There is a telephone
And a red balloon
And a picture of---
Bright primary and some secondary colors on double page images alternate with shades of black, gray and white used in single page pictures loosely framed using a liberal amount of white space. The pictures on the wall, the kittens playing with the yarn and the crackling fire create a mood of serenity. The adult rabbit knitting in the rocking chair, staying in the room until the bunny falls asleep brings a sense of safety and love to the story.
There have been numerous parodies and critical observations about this book but the fact remains it is and always will be a timeless classic.
The Napping House (Harcourt Children's Books, 1984) written by Audrey Wood with illustrations by Don Wood
Audrey Wood knows how to tell a story supplying gentle tension and a delightful resolution.
There is a house,
a napping house,
where everyone is sleeping.
And in that house
there is a bed,
a cozy bed
in a napping house,
where everyone is sleeping.
Rendered in oil on pressed board the illustrative work of Don Wood in hues of blue progressing to the golden light of a sunny day is brimming with energy and humor. The varied positions of the sleeping granny, child, dog, cat, and mouse along with their facial expressions are sure to generate giggles and grins. When they each start waking up expect to hear guffaws. Careful readers will notice the flight of the flea.
Follow the link attached to Audrey Wood's name to access information about the work of Audrey and Don Wood at their website. Here is a link to Harcourt containing an interview with Audrey and Don Wood. At Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Site there are discussion topics and activities regarding this title.
Can't You Sleep, Little Bear? (Candlewick Press, 1988) written by Martin Waddell with illustrations by Barbara Firth
After a day of playing outside Big Bear is ready to read his Bear Book in his cozy chair by the fire. In the darkest part of the cave he has tucked Little Bear into bed. Little Bear is not one bit tired and he is afraid of the dark.
Three times Big Bear goes to the lantern cupboard getting increasingly bigger lights to dispel the darkness. Each time he is a few pages closer to the good part of his book. When Little Bear admits to being as uneasy about the night, Big Bear takes him outside.
Final lights in the night, wise words and warm arms work their magic. Martin Waddell uses a repetition of key phrases to invite readers to participate in the story. The conversations between Big Bear and Little Bear are genuinely adorable.
"Can't you sleep, Little Bear?" yawned Big Bear, putting down his Bear Book (with just four pages to go to the interesting part) and padding over to the bed.
"I'm scared," said Little Bear.
"Why are you scared, Little Bear?" asked Big Bear.
"I don't like the dark," said Little Bear.
"What dark?" asked Big Bear.
"The dark all around us," said Little Bear.
"But I brought you a lantern!" said Big Bear.
"Only a teeny-weeny one," said Little Bear. "And there's lots of dark!"
The illustrations rendered in watercolor, ink and pencil with the exception of three double page spreads, edge to edge, are framed in rounded arches, as if we are looking inside the cave. Some elements in the images break the lines to give a sense of openness. The antics of Little Bear in the bedroom are completely endearing. Readers will be drawn to the realistic items in the living room and Little Bear's bedroom.
Here is a link to a page created by Candlewick Press where Martin Waddell and Barbara Firth talk about their work on all the Big Bear and Little Bear books.
Ask Me (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, July 14 2015) written by Bernard Waber with illustrations by Suzy Lee
This story takes us on a day long jaunt shared by a father and his daughter. We stroll through a park and past a pond filled with geese. We look closely at butterflies flitting among flowers. We visit a small carnival and a playground. As they romp and rest among the leaves, our understanding grows. At the close of day their conversations continue as she gets ready for bed, is tucked in and good nights are exchanged.
Told through a series of questions and answers Bernard Waber takes an ordinary day lifting it into the realm of marvelous. The freedom felt by the daughter to begin with
Ask me what I like.
and her dad's willing response
What do you like?
allows us to see the special bond between them. Their chatter is like listening to a symphony.
Ask me what else.
I like rain. I like splishing, sploshing,
and splooshing in the rain.
Splishing, sploshing, and splooshing.
I like those words.
They're rain words. I made them up.
Suzi Lee begins and ends her illustrations rendered in pencil on the opening and closing endpapers. We first see the father putting on a hat and his daughter putting on her coat in their entryway. At the close both pages are filled with fireflies, one of the girl's favorite bugs. Her color palette is introduced on the matching front dust jacket and book case and continued throughout the book filling the pages with affection and the brilliance of the season. All of the pictures cover two pages except for one. Perspective shifts to match the importance of the narrative.
To discover more about Bernard Waber and Suzi Lee and their other work please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.
The Full Moon at the Napping House (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September 1, 2015) written by Audrey Wood with illustrations by Don Wood
Without fail if squirrelly behavior is noted in children, dogs or cats, a check of the moon phase calendar will reveal a full one is in the offing. In a companion to their 1984 bedtime classic, Audrey Wood and Don Wood take us back to the napping house. Granny, the child, the dog, the cat and the mouse are sleepless, fidgety, playful, prowling and worried. A wee nighttime visitor pays them a visit reversing the spell cast by the moon.
Using repeating phrases Audrey Wood welcomes us into the luminous atmosphere of a single night. As words are added the activity increases until a pause announces the guest. Verbs follow canceling the effects in a peaceful rhythm.
And in that bed
there is a granny,
a sleepless granny
in a wide-awake bed
in a full-moon house,
where everyone is restless.
Using open acrylics on stretched and grounded watercolor paper Don Wood begins with a moon rising over rolling hills. As the story progresses you can tell by the look on Granny's face and her eyes, the actions of the child, dog, cat and mouse are driving her a little crazy. Careful readers will enjoy watching the movement of the mouse and the visitor. The use of light and shadow is as masterful here as in the original title.
Beep! Beep! Go to Sleep! (Little, Brown and Company, September 8, 2015) written by Todd Tarpley with illustrations by John Rocco
A pajama-clad boy moves down the hallway with his three robot pals to get ready for bed. After scrubbing up in the bathroom it's time for all four to snuggle and sleep in their individual places. The problem is the robots. They simply can't get settled. One mechanical complication after another seems to plague them. Their boy is getting more frustrated by the minute. A trick as old as time works wonders. Mission accomplished! No more beeping only sleeping.
Told in rhyme Todd Tarpley lulls us with his words into the bedtime ritual. His use of robotic terms fits as smoothly as a well-oiled machine into the story. By having the automated companions interrupt the boy's rest once, twice and three times before his irritation causes a verbal explosion, the fourth and final request is more surprising and satisfying.
Three little robots, time for bed. Time to dim your infrared.
On the front of the dust jacket readers can readily see the friendship between the boy and his rambunctious robots. To the left, on the back, silhouettes of the three robots are shown jumping on the boy's empty bed with the full moon in the background. The color from one of the robots and the book in the boy's hand provides the canvas for the book case. On the right are the three robot faces. To the left Beep! Beep! appears in large bold letters. The spine is the same pattern as the wallpaper in the home. The opening and closing endpapers are used to introduce and conclude this rollicking romp.
At the close of the book John Rocco talks about the mouse we see on all the pages as being his daughter's idea. This little being ups the hilarity with his liveliness in every scene. Rendered in pencil, watercolor and digital paint the images are warm and reminiscent of the recent past. The decor and items in the home and the style of the robots mirror treasured childhood memories or those worth making.
Please follow the link attached to John Rocco's name to access his website. There you can learn more about him and his other work. He also has additional images from this book at his blog. At Todd Tarpley's blog you can view illustrations and read his comments about this book. Simply follow the link embedded in his name.
Thank You and Good Night (Little, Brown and Company, October 6, 2015) written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell
As the day closes with a sunset, a wee bunny, Clement, is getting into his pajamas with help from his human friend Maggie. A doorbell ring announces the arrival of two friends, Jean, an elephant, and Alan, a bear. Both are wearing sleepwear. It's time for a Pajama Party!
The three take delight in bed bouncing, learning the chicken dance, participating in a funny face contest and a timeless favorite game, a bit of yoga and treats. They might pause more than once wondering if they should go to sleep but they are having too much fun. There does come a time when their activities are becoming quieter with looking, wishing and listening.
When they ask the question they have been voicing during the evening, Maggie finally says yes. The trio performs nighttime rituals and toddle toward bed. Tucked in tight they listen and then recite their thank-yous before whispering good night. A tender surprise awaits readers.
Patrick McDonnell writes words that wrap around readers with the cozy comfort of their very own bed. His simple sentences, stating the obvious, pair beautifully with his images quietly and softly leading us into his story. The voices of the three friends are shown in speech balloons adding to the charm. Even though they would not trade in a single minute of their play, they ask from time to time in a gentle refrain
"Is it time for bed yet?"
The front picture on the matching dust jacket and book case is sure to have you gasp aloud or whisper "Aww" in your mind. Rendered in pen and ink, pencil and watercolor on handmade paper each illustration inspires a sense of calm. On the back, to the left, the three are sleeping all in a row, sharing the same pillow, in a bed. This picture, a circle, is loosely framed in a cream color. The opening and closing endpapers are blue on blue like stars in a sky.
Heavy matte-finished paper in cream is the canvas for the art work of Patrick McDonnell. Each image has a brush stroke frame or smaller pictures are placed on the page. The details are sure to have you hugging the book. When they are jumping on the bed Alan jumps right out of his pajama bottoms, their funny faces are roll-on-floor hilarious, Jean's hiding place in hide-and-seek is sure to make you laugh out loud and the attire of the singing night bird will make you smile. This book is loaded with love.
To learn more about Patrick McDonnell please follow the links attached to his name to access two websites about him and his books. Patrick McDonnell was a guest at Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries John Schumacher's website, Watch. Connect. Read.
Seven books speak about the time we take to rest. We follow the stories about a simple, ordinary but memorable conversation during a day, special events or as bedtime approaches beloved rituals. I predict many readings of all these titles for the comfortable connection they will create between readers and listeners.