Is your favorite preschooler a master at putting off bedtime? Check out some of these good-night picture books that are great to read aloud. We can't guarantee it will make bedtime faster or easier, but it will definitely be more fun.
Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!
by Mo Willems
Hyperion Books for Children, 2006
Every child loves to say "no," and that is exactly what the reader gets to do when the pigeon tries to persuade him or her to stay up late. This clever book by Mo Willems, who began his career as a writer for Sesame Street, is yet another adventure with Pigeon. In dialogue balloons, he tries all sorts of excuses, a hot dog party or "just five more minutes." Even though Pigeon is getting sleepier by the minute, he still wants to stay up late. Can Pigeon convince readers that he really isn't tired? Even when he tries to disguise a yawn as a stretch? And even more importantly, can readers not let the pigeon stay up late?
Willems' simple pencil cartoon drawings will appeal to younger children, but adults and kids will love Pigeon's hilarious range of emotion. You can tell Pigeon "no" in other books, including Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and The Pigeon Wants a Puppy! Fans of Willems' will also recognize another favorite character in the illustrations.
Otto Goes to Bed
by Todd Parr
Little, Brown and Co., 2003
Otto the dog does not want to go to bed even though it is dark! There are so many fun things to do all day, he is afraid he will miss something amazing, like digging for bones or chasing his tail. He tries lots of things to make him get sleepy -- a nice bubble bath, brushing his teeth, even howling at the moon -- but nothing seems to do the trick. Will Otto ever get to sleep? And when he does, what will he dream about? Kids will relate to Otto, as he wants to play instead of going to sleep.
Bright and colorful illustrations show Otto throughout the day and doing "people" things like sleeping in a big bed, and will definitely bring on the giggles. Children who like this book can read more about Otto in other adventures at the beach, at school and at his birthday party.
A Book of Sleep
by Il Sung Na
Alfred A. Knopf, 2009
Il Sung Na's first picture book is an ode to animals and how they sleep. A beautifully quirky owl opens the book telling readers that everyone goes to sleep when the sky is dark, "except for the watchful owl." Readers will turn the pages to see koalas snuggled together sleeping, horses standing up to sleep and birds sleeping with their eyes open. Children will learn that some animals sleep alone, while others sleep in groups.
Kids will have fun looking for the "watchful owl" in each page spread. The illustrations' whimsical and somewhat fantastical nature takes the owl to the Arctic to see a group of penguins sleeping and then quickly to the ocean, where fish sleep without even a blink of an eye. The soothing blues and greens balance nicely with the slightly abstract and exaggerated drawings. This is a beautiful book that children and adults will love looking at night after night.
I'm Not Cute!
by Jonathan Allen
Hyperion Books for Children, 2006
Baby Owl decides to explore the woods before bed. All the forest animals are excited to see their cute and fluffy friend, but Baby Owl, who doesn't want to be known as cute, tries to convince them that he is a "huge, sleek hunting machine with great big see-in-the-dark eyes." After Rabbit, Fox and Squirrel all greet Baby Owl with a hug and declarations of how cute he is, Baby Owl is visibly upset. Thankfully, Mama Owl comes along and knows just what Baby needs -- bedtime!
Jonathan Allen's drawings allow children to decide for themselves if Baby Owl is really a cute owl or a huge, scary one.
Readers who enjoy this book should check out the other books about Baby Owl, including I'm Not Scared!, I'm Not Santa! and I'm Not Sleepy!
Goodnight, My Duckling
by Nancy Tafuri
Scholastic Press, 2006
The companion book to Have You Seen My Duckling? (for which Nancy Tafuri won a Caldecott Honor in 1985) is a wonderful story about love, family and home. As a little duckling says good night to all the pond animals, he accidentally drifts away from his family on their way home. But the turtle is on his way to save the day. Will the duckling be able to make a new friend and get home in time for bed? Children will enjoy this wonderfully simple story and relate to the duckling, who dawdles as he says good night. Nancy Tafuri combines the perfect blend of nature and whimsy in her animals, creating endearing characters on every page. This book would be perfect for a toddler who is learning her animals.
Time For Bed
by Mem Fox; illustrated by Jane Dyer
Gulliver Books, 1993
This is a lyrical and rhythmic good-night book that reminds all the animals, as well as Baby, that it is time for bed. One page spread shows a mama goose and her baby snuggling in for bed surrounded by the night sky: "It's time for bed, little goose, little goose. The stars are out and on the loose." Children will love the simple rhymes as well as the menagerie of animals (geese, cats, cows, fish and even a snake) they get to say good night to.
What make this book sing are the comforting watercolor illustrations of animals putting their babies to sleep. With all the different animals, this is also a great book for kids to practice making animal sounds, a fun early literacy activity.
Lisa Smant is assistant manager at the Youth Center at the downtown Fort Worth Library. Look for these books at your local branch.