Sleep Tight! | SLJ Spotlight

For babies, toddlers, and even elementary-age children, preparing for bed, settling down to rest, and calming fears of the dark are perennially popular picture book themes. This month brings a plethora of soothing stories to spark the imagination and usher in sweet dreams.
For babies, toddlers, and even elementary-age children, preparing for bed, settling down to rest, and calming fears of the dark are perennially popular picture book themes. This month brings a plethora of soothing stories to spark the imagination and usher in sweet dreams.

Bloom, Suzanne. A Number Slumber. illus. by Suzanne Bloom. 40p. Boyds Mills. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781629795577. POP

pb-spot-bloom-number-slumberPreS –A menagerie of animals prepare for bed while the narrator asks readers, “What do you do to get ready for bed?” The text transitions from rhyming questions, enumerating some of the common rituals in preparing for bed, to the query, “What do other sleepyheads do when their busy day is through?” A countdown begins as “ten terribly tired tigers tiptoe to their beds” and “seven slightly stinky skunks somersault into their bunks.” With wonderfully alliterative sentences and rich vocabulary for each of the creatures from 10 to one, the narrative ends by assuring readers that what other sleepyheads do is “fall fast asleep, just like you.” The illustrations, done in pastel, have an impressionistic, dreamlike quality, with jewel-tone backgrounds that are perfectly suited for this bedtime book. VERDICT Rhyme, alliteration, and cozy images make this excellent selection ideal for read-alouds.–Ramarie Beaver, Plano Public Library System, TX

Doyle, Eugenie. Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter. illus. by Becca Stadtlander. 36p. Chronicle. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452129013.

picturebooks-spotlight-doyle-sleeptightfarmPreS-Gr 2 –A family farm produces delicious homegrown treats during the spring, summer, and fall. But what happens to the farm during winter? Readers will discover how one family puts the farm to bed: from gathering and chopping wood and harvesting the last of the tomatoes and okra to fluffing up the chicken coop and selling the last of the bounty at the farm stand. By the time December comes, the family members are hard at work hanging lights on the house, busily using the last of the harvest to make garden vegetable soup and fresh fruit pie. At long last, the farm is tucked in by quilts of snow as the quiet wind sweeps across the plains and the group settles in for a long, cozy winter. Idyllically pastoral illustrations complement the lyrical text, adding to the book’s calming, lullabylike charm. Each season and its corresponding produce are highlighted in detail, demonstrating how each crop serves a specific purpose: beeswax for the candles that light the long winter nights, vegetables for winter stew, chickens for their eggs, and plump berries for delicious pie. Plenty of animals, foods, and activities are featured, affording lots of opportunities to strengthen narrative skills and dialogic reading during storytime. VERDICT Adults and children alike will appreciate this rustic, comforting tale that will feel at home in most picture book collections.–Natalie Braham, Denver Public Library

Feder, Sandra V. The Moon Inside. illus. by Aimée Sicuro. 32p. Groundwood. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781554988235.

picturebooks-spotlight-feder-themooninsidePreS-Gr 1 –Ella is afraid of the dark. She clutches her mother’s hand as dusk falls, and flicks on many lights throughout her house. One evening, while Ella rues the disappearance of the sun and the absence of yellow from the nighttime sky, her mother encourages her to take a peek outside. The child is pleasantly surprised to find glowing fireflies and a golden moon illuminating the darkness: “It’s my favorite color—only quieter.” As Ella and her mother sit side by side on the front porch swing, they listen to the sounds of the night. Sicuro’s striking watercolor and ink illustrations move from domestic daytime scenes, accented with splashes of yellow wallpaper, sunny flowers in a vase, and lemon slices on a plate, to a velvety black background revealing twinkling stars and elegant nocturnal creatures. Having faced her fears, Ella gains a newfound appreciation for the stillness of the dark. Back inside her house, the little girl turns on fewer lights, content in knowing that “the night belong[s] to the moon, quietly glowing through her bedroom window.” VERDICT A simply luminous and reassuring selection to share before bedtime, again and again.–Linda Ludke, London Public Library, Ont., Canada

Graff, Lisa. It Is Not Time for Sleeping. illus. by Lauren Castillo. 40p. Clarion. Nov. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544319301.

picturebooks-spotlight-graff-itisnottimeforsleepingPreS –Bedtime routines are a staple in most young children’s lives and can be a source of comfort as well as conflict. This charming and endearing picture book centers on one little boy who is very conscious that every task he completes brings him closer to bedtime. When he is taking his bath and is told to get out soon, he stalls for more time because “it is not time for sleeping.” When his parents remark that he looks cozy after putting on his pajamas he responds, “Not too cozy,” because, after all, it is not time for sleeping. Readers follow the child and his ever-faithful dog through each bedtime task, all of which end in the now-familiar refrain. With excellent use of shading and shadows, the artwork shows the darkening sky through the windows, and a cozy atmosphere permeates the pages. Ultimately, the boy can’t fight his fatigue any longer, and after a hug from his parents, he declares that it is indeed now time for sleeping. Castillo’s evocative illustrations are warm and comforting and set exactly the right tone. Best known for her middle grade novels, Graff proves that she can deliver the goods to picture book audiences. VERDICT An excellent candidate for bedtime sharing or to put together with Jane Yolen’s How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight and Greg Pizzoli’s Good Night Owl for a sleepy storytime theme.–Amy Nolan, St. Joseph Public Library, MI

Hadfield, Chris & Kate Fillion. The Darkest Dark. illus. by Terry Fan & Eric Fan. 40p. Little, Brown. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316394727.

picturebooks-spotlight-hadfield-thedarkestdarkPreS-Gr 2 –Canadian astronaut Hadfield presents an uplifting tale about a boy whose deep-rooted fears are eclipsed by the potency and possibility of his dreams for the future. It’s July 1969, and Chris spends his days piloting his cardboard-box rocket, battling extraterrestrials, and voyaging to distant planets. But at night, fear of the dark has him seeing terrifying shadow aliens everywhere and seeking safety in his parents’ bed. Everything changes when he watches the Apollo 11 moon landing on television and catches an awestruck glimpse of outer space, “the darkest dark ever.” Later, unsettling shadows still occupy his unlit room, but Chris is different: with eyes newly opened to “the power and mystery and velvety black beauty of the dark,” he can’t wait to explore the night sky—a dream that will always keep him company (and ultimately come true). Rendered in graphite and digitally colored in dusky hues, the luminous illustrations provide realistic portrayals of the action along with emotionally evocative depictions of the fantastical elements, from the just-menacing-enough coal black silhouettes of nighttime creatures to a wonder-filled dreamscape showing the pajama-clad space-helmeted boy (and his loyal pug companion) floating above his bed surrounded by stars and planets, rocket ships, and animals. Back matter includes a biography, a reassuring message from the author, and photos. VERDICT A splendid story for soothing night fears, fostering future explorers, and teaching children that not even the sky’s the limit when it comes to dreaming big.–Joy Fleishhacker, School Library Journal

Hest, Amy. Are You Sure, Mother Bear? illus. by Lauren Tobia. 32p. Candlewick. Oct. 2016. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763672072.

picturebooks-spotlight-hest-areyousurePreS-Gr 2 –It’s the first night of winter, and snow has fallen. Within the cozy rooms of the bear household, Little Miss Bear insists that she is not ready to sleep—“Not even a wink.” Little Miss and Mother watch the flakes fall for a long time. As the snow outside slowly covers the ground, Mother Bear soothes each of her little one’s fears. Will the stars, the moon, and Mother Bear be there when she awakens in the spring? Will the hills still be there for rolling? Will there be toast? Mother Bear gently reassures her cub, and they take a trip out into the frosty night for one last roll in the snow. This book is well suited for storytime or bedtime, with good-night kisses, hugs, and final questions in a child-friendly home filled with softly smiling faces and plenty of pen-and-ink detail. All eyes finally close. “Winter is for sleeping, because that’s what bears do.” VERDICT This warm and lovely book emphasizes parental love and may encourage kids to investigate what real bears do during the winter. An excellent bedtime selection for all libraries.–Mary Elam, Learning Media Services, Plano ISD, TX

Nastro, Caroline. The Bear Who Couldn’t Sleep. illus. by Vanya Nastanlieva. 32p. NorthSouth. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780735842687.

picturebooks-spotlight-nastro-thebearwhocouldntsleepPreS –Little Bear wanders out of his family’s warm den and sets off through the snowy trees one night when he cannot sleep. He walks and walks “until he arrive[s] at a very big city”—New York. Bear finds himself surrounded by entertainment. Parades march by with colorful balloons, friends are made at the Central Park Zoo, a tall green lady stands guard in a harbor, and even the opera beckons to Bear. While gazing at a Jackson Pollock painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bear decides that he could stay in the city all winter...if he weren’t getting so, so sleepy. Hushed mixed-media artwork comprised of pencils, pastels, and a touch of watercolor, rendered in muted shades of blues and grays, is quietly stunning, particularly a spread of Bear curled up at the bottom of a tree dappled in snow, illuminated by the hazy yellow beam of a park ranger’s flashlight. Bear eventually stumbles home, walking, walking, walking back to his family “and the quiet sounds of winter.” VERDICT A first-rate debut that deserves a spot on storytime shelves to share with little bears everywhere.–Lisa Kropp, Lindenhurst Memorial Library, NY

Valério, Geraldo. Turn on the Night. illus. by Geraldo Valério. 40p. Groundwood. Sept. 2016. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781554988419.

picturebooks-spotlight-valerio-turnonthenightPreS-Gr 1 –A youngster’s imagination soars to the stars in this stunningly illustrated wordless picture book. Tucked into bed with a book in one hand and a stuffed chicken in the other, a girl dozes off, transforms into a willowy canine creature, and springs out of the open window for a fanciful adventure. The protagonist is soon joined by two traveling companions—a chicken from the backyard coop and a majestic antlered animal—and all three gleefully bound across the nighttime landscape. Spotting a bright beacon in a twinkle-filled sky, they work together to snatch the star and then return to their starting points, the canine critter leaping back through the window with starburst clasped in mouth. A page turn shows the sleeping girl, her room now star-strewn and aglow with warm light. Featuring lithe, robust animals that stretch across simply drawn backdrops, the acrylic paint and color pencil illustrations are inundated with imagination-empowering possibility. Images of the three figures reoccur in different incarnations (on the cover of a book, on a lampshade, as a weather vane), encouraging readers to flip pages back and forth, seek out details, and construct their own narratives. VERDICT Perfect for one-on-one or small group sharing, this is an eye-pleasing and dream-dazzling delight for bedtime or anytime.–Joy Fleishhacker, School Library Journal

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