The bedtime journey begins when a clever worm narrowly escapes becoming dinner to a group of hungry baby birds. Clad in a cap, sock, and sneaker, we watch him jump from the nest to an urban rooftop garden, slowly making his way to his underground home. As he passes by the vegetables, we see their nighttime routine, each group of veggies adorable in its own right. While turnips “tuck… in tightly” and potatoes close their eyes, “[t]uckered out tomatoes hum … lullabies.” Like the affectionate smile of each vegetable, the friendly, humorous rhyme reassures and warms the heart.
It’s sheer fun learning the variety of ways veggies like to turn in. “[C]uddly” cauliflower, baby carrots, and baby lettuce enjoy “snuggling.” Rhubarbs delight in “reading stories to worn-out broccolis.” Giggles from little ones will surely ensue when they discover how eggplants dream—some about familiar places and some about galaxies far, far away. “Cranky corn” who “cover up [their] ears” because of a nearby veggie’s snoring will definitely be a familiar scene to readers young and old.
Vibrant colors in acrylic paint add to the playfulness. Bold borders in black outline edges, creating a safe space to rest and soak in the illustrations, appropriately printed on 100% vegetarian printmaking paper.
A delightful bedtime read-aloud, Goodnight Veggies is the perfect prelude to a good night.
TOMORROW MOST LIKELY Written by Dave Eggers Illustrated by Lane Smith (Chronicle Books; $17.99, Ages 3-5)
Written by celebrated author Dave Eggers and illustrated by Caldecott honoree Lane Smith, Tomorrow Most Likely is a heartfelt (and not-so-quiet) bedtime story that brings affirmation and comfort to young audiences. By juxtaposing the small and the grand, the familiar and the odd, what is and what can be, author and illustrator provide confidence to a little boy facing the big, wide world.
As the boy learns of all the things that will “most likely” happen tomorrow, we readers see how discoveries both big and small will help him embrace the day. “Tomorrow most likely there will be a sky. And chances are it will be blue. Tomorrow most likely there will be a squirrel. And chances are his name is Stu.” Eggers rhymes, repeats key phrases, and describes the day through the familiar, child-centered concept of color. Smith’s vibrant illustrations–rendered in oil paint, pen and ink, paper collage, and digitally–create a bustling neighborhood of towering skyscrapers and confounding traffic signs. But like Eggers, Smith quiets the big city noise with familiarity. The shapes inherent in traffic signs provide a wonderful secondary “lesson” to the story.
Yet another layer is the hidden “lesson” of learning to be present. Watching a big plane “flying high and white and fast and far” is a treat the boy can treasure, if only he’s able to see it the moment before it vanishes into the clouds. He can befriend a little “bright bug, green and red” and discover it’s feeling lonely (because it’s missing Stu).
Though tomorrow will “most likely” be a predictable day, it’s also “most likely” that the unlikely will happen. “Something won’t rhyme.” The little boy will “see something strange. [He’ll] hear something odd.” No doubt uncertainty will be part of his day but, this too can be approached through learning and fun. If the little boy follows his curiosity, he’ll recognize that the strange, far away figure at the end of the street is actually his eccentric and funny friend.
What appears to be one thing can, in fact, be something entirely different. Separated friends, Stu and “bright bug,” will be reunited; a simple rock off the ground can look like a brain, and a cloud can transform into an ice cream treat. The only limit to what can be is the boy’s imagination. His contribution to the world is his interpretation and unique spin on everything he encounters. Tomorrow matters because of his presence in it.
What a loving and empowering way to send off to bed little kids dreaming of what tomorrow will (“most likely”) bring.
IF YOU WANT TO FALL ASLEEP THE BLOG TOUR 2018 Written by Jackie Azúa Kramer Illustrated by Lisa Brandenburg (Clavis Books; $17.99, Softcover $9.95, Ages 3 and up)
Short summary ofIf You Want to Fall Asleepby Jackie Azúa Kramer with illustrations by Lisa Brandenburg: It’s a sweet bedtime battle between Little Mouse’s endless excuses for his lack of sleep and his mother’s loving and imaginative suggestions. A night filled with pirates, pancakes, floating among stars. Wait for yawning. And stretching. And sleepy thoughts. And drowsy eyes.
I have always loved bedtime stories and have the fondest memories of reading them to my children. A lot of picture books simply become bedtime reads by virtue of their popularity even though they do not necessarily induce nodding out, while others, just as good, are intentionally written that way. The latter applies to Azúa Kramer’s sweet, comforting tale. Mama Mouse has put Little Mouse to bed but he’s not quite ready to lay still, something we’re all familiar with. In slightly muted colors, Brandenburg’s cheerful mixed media artwork depicts Little Mouse’s toys and stuffed animals at first being a big distraction. After Mama Mouse softly suggests the following to bring on yawning and get Little Mouse into the sleepy zone …
If you want to fall asleep and you’re jumping on your bed … Read pages in a story. Not one or two or three, but the whole book, from cover to cover.
… readers will actually see the stuffed animals and toys have reacted more to Mama’s suggestion than Little Mouse has. It’s clear that his mind’s moving a million miles an hour. Helping to calm his over-active brain, Mama Mouse offers another soothing refrain and gently suggests he think about scrumptious food and wait for stretching. This repetition of mom’s reassuring words continues as Little Mouse remains unable to sleep meaning more visits to Mama, more ways to settle down, until he can finally fall asleep.
With quiet sounding language and a soothing rhythm, Azúa Kramer’s writing does an impressive job of lulling little ones to sleep. Parents will appreciate that there’s just the right amount of words since the ideal bedtime story should be under 10 minutes long to read. And when, in the end, Mama Mouse gives hugs to her child, it’s a wonderful way to wrap up story time and kiss your own child good-night. I have no doubt that they’ll be relaxed, ready to drift off to dreamland filled with loving thoughts and a smiling face.
The Green Umbrella (NorthSouth, Feb. 2017) The Boy & the Eight Hundred Pound Gorilla (Candlewick Press, 2020) If You Want to Fall Asleep (Clavis, May 2018) That’s for Babies (Clavis, TBD) Miles Won’t Smile (Clavis, TBD) How Lilly Ate the Rainbow (FastPencil, 2011)
Guest Post By Joanna Liu, Debut Author of When I Wake Up
My favorite pastime? Bedtime reading with my children.
Snuggling up at the end of the day with Annabel (3), Atticus (1) and a gigantic stack of picture books makes me a very happy mommy. What can I say? I love the cuddles! Likewise, it makes for two contented and relaxed kids ready to settle down for the evening. It’s a win-win situation.
Really though, there’s no surprise here. It’s well-known that bedtime stories create important parent-child bonds and prepare children for sleep.
In terms of a bonding experience it can’t be beaten; 20 mins each day set aside for one-on-one time with your child. Both parent and child can escape from their daily pressures and de-stress, with a cozy environment and magical books used as stepping stones to further conversations. Even if it is evening number 30 of reading Goodnight Moon 10 times in a row, with a continuous search for that little mouse, it’s a great experience. (Anybody else have children who want the same book reading over and over for weeks at a time?).
And as for preparing your child for sleep, well, let’s face it, a toddlers’ resistance to going to bed is pretty much a universal parent struggle. So, it is music to my bedtime-reading ears that child development experts agree that creating consistency in the evening is a key part of getting children to sleep easily. By establishing a nightly routine, such as a bath followed by bedtime stories and cuddles, you are providing the child with the predictability needed to make them sleepy.
However, the benefit of story time doesn’t stop here… Hang on – what could be even better then cuddles and calm kids before bed?
Recent research has shown that a daily reading routine actually boosts your child’s brain development, improving logic skills, memory and speeding up the mastery of language.
When babies are read to, they begin to pick up on simple sounds. The more frequently a baby hears these simple sounds, the faster they can process them. As a toddler learning to speak, they have an advantage at successfully differentiating between words, such as cot, cat, car. Then, as a grade-schooler learning to read, they are far better equipped for sounding out unfamiliar words. In short, it’s a knock-on effect from having started the bedtime reading routine with fun, colorful picture books as an infant. Moreover, add to the mix rhyming and repetitive stories and you have an invaluable teaching tool.
Additionally, daily reading also improves their social and emotional development, and works on their fine motor skills as they learn to turn pages.
Yikes, that’s a lot of benefits!
With the aim of capitalizing on all of these benefits, my husband and I wrote our award-winning children’s bedtime book, When I Wake Up. The story delivers fun, positive encouragement for toddlers to get to sleep on time and does so in an educational way.
When I Wake Up tells the tale of a grumpy young girl who doesn’t want to go to sleep … until her imagination takes over and she starts to think about all the fun things she can do the next day when she wakes up. She could dance, or paint, or host a teddy tea party! There are so many exciting possibilities. Tomorrow is packed full of potential and tomorrow will be a wonderful day.
The very simple yet powerful message about getting to bed on time to enjoy the following day is happily received by toddlers without them even realising they are learning. It leaves the toddler with feelings of happiness, playfulness, curiosity … and wanting to go to bed. Two enthusiastic cuddles-and-calm-kids thumbs up to that!
Throw into the mix the quality rhyme scheme, beautiful illustrations and sturdy construction of the board book – all of which When I Wake Up has received high praise for – and it’s easy to see why it’s quickly becoming a must-have companion for nightly routines.
This evening, when you are snuggling up for bedtime reading with your toddler and a large collection of picture books, as you enter the enchanted world of story time, have a think about all of these fantastic benefits and give yourself a pat on the back – it’s not just an enjoyable routine for you and your child, it’s also a really, really important part of their development.
BOOK DETAILS: When I Wake Up Written by Ming and Joanna Liu Illustrated by Hattie Hyder $7.99 Ages 0-3
BRIEF BIO: Joanna Liu is a British stay-at-home mom living in Washington DC with her American husband and their two children, Annabel and Atticus. She has a degree in Philosophy from the University of York, England and loves to encourage curiosity. She has lived all around the world, including London, Vancouver, Switzerland, Cairo and Frankfurt. This is Joanna’s debut children’s book.
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not constitute an endorsement from GRWR. No compensation was received for this guest post.
Forever, by Emma Dodd (Templar/Candlewick Press, $12.99, Ages 2-5) is reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.
Perfect for reading and snuggling at bedtime, this is a sweet and simple book for parent and child to share and enjoy. In a vast white Arctic wilderness, this engaging bear pair plays, cuddles, swims and sleeps side by side. The quiet, comforting text assures little bear that his parent will always be there to encourage, reassure, and guide him. Spare but captivating prose perfectly carries the story forward through the book.
The illustrations are both muted and show-stopping, so lovely that you must pause and appreciate the scale and setting on each page. We see the bears close and cuddling, but also venturing through their snowy home beneath the Northern Lights, under swirling snowflakes, or paddling through a brilliant silver sea. Foil softly enhances the scenes as sparkling stars, moon, snow and water, adding an extra dimension of depth and interest.
The sweet-faced little cub absorbs the calm and steady wisdom of his parent throughout the tale, whether happy, blue, worried or hopeful. Ending with the enduring promise that (“No matter what may come as we journey on together…know that deep within my heart, I will love you…forever.”) this tale will be a warm and lovely bedtime favorite.
– Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey
Where Obtained: I received a review copy from the publisher and received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own. Disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Are you familiar with this oldie but goodie? I Took the Moon for a Walk ($14.99, large format board book; $7.99, paperback, Barefoot Books, ages 1-7) by Carolyn Curtis and illustrated by Alison Jay is simply stunning. This oversized board book is a personal fave because the rhyming verse is not only well paced, but so original. “I carried my own light just in case, the Moon got scared and hid its face.”
Toddlers will settle down for sleep while listening to the book’s gentle, soothing rhymes. Parents, invite your little ones to join the little boy, his imagination and the most beautifully detailed crackly and glazed-faced moon as they wander, hand holding hand, around an enchanting village one magical night. “We danced ‘cross the bridge where the smooth waters flow. The Moon was above and the Moon was below …” Creatively illustrated with cats, bats, foxes, owls, snails, swans, hares and howling dogs, I Took the Moon for a Walk is a comforting bedtime story, certain to allay any fears of the dark.
A bonus to the book is a page at the end devoted to facts about The Mysterious Moon and another all about the featured creatures in The World at Night. If you have a chance to check out Barefoot Books’ website and learn more about their core values and brilliant selection of imagination-sparking storybooks, I highly recommend doing so.
It’s been several years since I’ve composed a bedtime story for my kids, but when I did, my stories featured an older sister and a younger brother, a seaside village like the dozens we visited when living in England, and a magical dolphin. While the plots varied, the characters did not and my children could always count on a Tommy and Lisa adventure to send them off to sleep with the soothing sounds of the ocean and a playful dolphin in their minds. Maybe one day they’ll tell Tommy and Lisa tales to their children.
I recently wrote about Betty White and her connection with sleepbetter.org, and a survey by IPSOS, as part of the Bedtime Stories Project – an effort to celebrate bedtime stories. So, keeping with that theme, if you want tips on creating some engaging bedtime stories, read this very helpful article from author Hillary Homzie.
To jumpstart the story storytelling process, below are five tips that I use when I pen a new tale.
(1) Choose a subject that you’re passionate about. Find a topic on which you have a lot to say, something that fascinates you, tickles your funny bone or even upsets you.
For example, you could pick something as ordinary as laundry. Why? Well, let’s pretend that you hate folding laundry. Of all the tasks in the world, folding laundry is the most onerous.
(2) Ask what if? Brainstorm several what “if scenarios” and see what happens.
What if you have a mother mouse who decides to stop folding laundry? By day she’s a mouse policewoman protecting the village from an ornery cat with kittens, and she’s exhausted when she gets home from work. What would happen to her mouse house? Would laundry fill the bedrooms, the kitchen, out the windows and into the clouds where it reaches a giant cat’s kingdom?
(3) Create a problem and solve it. Take your what if situation and discover the inherent problem it produces. Why is it urgent that your character to solve this problem?
What if the mouse follows the heap of laundry and has a run in with the giant cat, which ensues into a high speed chase because the cat is hungry for mouse pie?
The key is to pick one problem and stick with it.
(4) Escalate the problem. Make your problem worse – either through character or plot development.
If the laundry starts as a small pile, it should evolve into a pile as tall as the leaning Tower of Pisa, which then spills out the window and stops traffic. Or, if your escalation is character driven, then maybe the daughter mouse is the sort who wears the same dress every day – pink with a fancy polka dot bow – but can’t find it because the laundry hasn’t been done, forcing her to be flexible, reach outside her comfort zone and pick a new outfit to help her mom fight the ornery cat.
(5) Create a satisfying, yet surprising conclusion. Pick an ending, and then twist it by asking, what if this happened instead? Keep spinning the ending until you find a new and different conclusion. Make sure this ending is a logical conclusion to the start of your story.
What if the mouse escaped from the giant cat’s house and had a new appreciation for folding laundry? Okay, that feels sort of pedestrian. What if, instead, they learn that the giant cat is a princess who doesn’t have a dress for the royal ball, and the mouse offers to sew the pieces of laundry together to create a patchwork dress? I think we can take this further. What if, instead of a dress, the mouse created a patchwork quilt for the baby kittens, who are making the mother cat grumpy due to lack of sleep? The quilt keeps the kittens warm, stops their loud mewling, puts the mother cat in a better mood and relaxes the mouse village. Our mother mouse learns her lesson and regularly folds the laundry. That’s it!
The idea is to have fun. When you start with a subject that engages you, the process should be joyful, cathartic, even. And you don’t need to feel compelled to tell fantastical stories, or anthropomorphic stories. But you can, if you want to. You can tell sports stories, stories about construction workers, really anything, as long as you care about it.
Hillary Homzie, Associate Visiting Professor, Hollins University Graduate Program in Children’s Writing and Literature, is the author of Things are Gonna’ Get Ugly (S&S Aladdin Mix), Alien Clones from Outer Spaceseries (S&S Aladdin) and the forthcoming The Hot List (S&S Aladdin Mix).
Whether you’ve seen her on Saturday Night Light or at one of her many nationwide appearances (and upcoming 2011 calendar), Betty White, at 80+ years-old, is a comedic force to be reckoned with! Recently, in addition to corralling Betty White to read some classics to kids, Sleepbetter.org, conducted a survey by IPSOS, as part of the Bedtime Stories Project – an effort to celebrate bedtime stories.
The top findings are as follows:
America’s all-time favorite bedtime story is “Goodnight Moon”
37% parents of children 7 and under report that original bedtime stories are their children’s favorite
74% of parents have created original stories
The above results prompted Sleepbetter.org’s BedtimeStories story submission effort – one submission was read by Betty White at an event earlier this summer and another illustrated by renowned artist Bill Nelson in July.
While 65 percent said that mom was in charge of the bedtime story, just 22 percent said the duty usually fell to dad
Three in ten (27%) parents of parents aged 7 or younger report that their children have a television in their room
Those that do are nearly twice as likely to say they don’t most often read bedtime stories (52%) as those without a TV in the bedroom (29%), and are nearly five-times more likely to say they typically watch TV before bed (26%) than those without a TV in their room (6%)
Moreover, those with a TV in their room are significantly more likely (50%) to go to bed after 8:35pm than those without a TV in their room (28%)