5 Picture Books for Bedtime Sharing

These picture books address the sights, sounds, and seeming magical things that happen when night falls.

These picture books—ideal for bedtime sharing—address the sights, sounds, and seeming magical things that happen when night falls. To some folks, it means cozy, calming rituals in preparation for slumber, and for others, it means, getting to work. These beautifully illustrated and evocative titles will appeal to early birds and night owls alike and are sure to inspire sweet dreams whenever they are read.

Steve Antony. Good Night, Mr. Panda. illus. by Steve Antony. 32p. Scholastic. Aug. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781338275957. POP
PreS-Gr 1 –After attempting to teach a bevy of boorish beasts good manners (Please, Mr. Panda; Thank You, Mr. Panda; I’ll Wait, Mr. Panda), the titular character now tries to convince the animals to adhere to a proper bedtime routine. Antony’s appealingly spare artwork is flavored with whimsy, especially his depiction of rotund Mr. Panda, whose doughnut-covered jammies are a witty nod to the tasty treats he hawked in his debut outing. Occasional spots of color pop against the dark blue backdrop. This snarky yet ultimately sweet story is bound to amuse little ones.

VERDICT With its deadpan humor, this is a welcome departure from more formulaic bedtime books. A funny and original one-on-one nighttime read.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

Kitty Crowther. Stories of the Night. tr. from German by Julia Marshall. illus. by Kitty Crowther. 64p. Gecko. Sept. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781776571970.
PreS-Gr 2 –Three gentle fairy-tale bedtime stories that children will find endearing. Little Bear does her best to persuade her mother to tell three stories before bedtime. Mother Bear obliges and begins with the story of the Night Guardian who makes sure all of the forest creatures go to sleep. She bangs her gong when the moon rises and quietly convinces the animals that it’s time for them to go to bed. When all are tucked in, who will tell the Night Guardian that it’s time to go to sleep? Originally written in German, the stories will not be familiar to many young listeners and readers. However, they’re full of kind characters who are willing to help others. The colored pencil illustrations are almost childlike, with simply drawn characters and exaggerated features.

VERDICT A sweet way to transition from easy readers to beginning chapter books. Children will ask for these stories again and again.–Barbara Spiri, Southborough Library, MA

Louise Greig. The Night Box. illus. by Ashling Lindsay. 32p. Clarion. Sept. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781328850935.
PreS-Gr 1 –Nighttime, a scary transition for some children, is made friendly and magical in this picture book debut. As the day ends for young Max, it begins for owl, fox, badger, and mole. As everyone is waiting for the night, so is the “Night Box.” Max, who has the key, uses it opening the Night Box, and “Day slips inside and Night sweeps out.” Darkness moves around slipping into all the open spaces, which Max enjoys as “Night is mischievous.” Lindsay’s digital art brilliantly captures the mood and magic of natural world. Her use of shadow captures the evening light as day moves into night, and “when night gets tired,” Max opens the box again for night and day to switch places, and we feel that morning sun.

VERDICT A great tool to assuage the fear of the dark; rereads will be a pleasure in this ode to the changing of the time of day.–Danielle Jones, Multnomah County Library, OR

Karen Hesse. Night Job. illus. by G. Brian Karas. 32p. Candlewick. Sept. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763662387.
PreS-Gr 2 –It’s sunset on a Friday night, and a child narrator and his father head out on a motorcycle through the darkening city streets toward a school. The boy’s father is the school’s custodian, and, together, the father and son work their way from room to room in the half-light of gym, the cafeteria, the hallways, and the library. Hesse captures a hushed, childlike wonder at a boy’s father’s evening custodial job, while Karas’s quiet, powerful illustrations command a palette of grays and play with illumination to emphasize the details: an orange basketball, the green library sofa, or the brightness of the dream ocean in the book’s last spread.

VERDICT Simultaneously muted but alive with detail, this title offers an extraordinary glimpse into an endearing father-son relationship, a livelihood, and an ordinary life. Recommended for all picture book shelves.–Brianne Colombo, Fairfield Free Public Library, NJ

John Sullivan. Kitten and the Night Watchman. illus. by Taeeun Yoo. 40p. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. Sept. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481461917.
PreS-Gr 1 –After saying good night to his family, a night watchman makes his rounds at a construction site, checking that all is well. As he sits down to enjoy a cup of coffee, a kitten appears and accompanies him on the rest of his nightly circuit as the site grows darker and more fanciful. When the kitten suddenly disappears, the watchman worries until the kitten returns. This time, rather than letting the kitten go, the watchman brings him home to his family. Yoo’s distinctive block print illustrations and Sullivan’s spare poetic prose render a mundane construction site magical, alive with nighttime sights and sounds, and make the watchman’s emotions so heartfelt, readers will worry and rejoice along with him.

VERDICT Based on true events, an unusual story of friendship so deftly executed it should be welcome in most collections.– Yelena Voysey, formerly at Pickering Educational Library, Boston University

These reviews have been excerpted from the School Library Journal August 2018 issue.


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