Here are a few board books that we're enjoying as bedtime reads (in addition to Amy Hest's Kiss Good Night, which I reviewed previously):
It's Time to Sleep My Love written by Eric Metaxas and illustrated by Nancy Tillman. Feiwel & Friends. January 2011. Review copy. This board book (a picture book version is also available) features Nancy Tillman's illustrations of a lullaby written by Eric Metaxas. It almost reads more like a love song for adults than a story for children, particularly in the advanced vocabulary (words like "croon" and "utters"). There are passages like:
Your dreams will be arriving soon.
They'll float to you
in sleep's balloon.
The otter utters by the lake,
"It's getting hard to stay awake."
Definitely poetic - if a bit above the heads of the youngest readers. However, the illustrations for It's time to Sleep, My Love are simply gorgeous. Some of them, particularly one of tigers, would make lovely posters for a child's room. The colors are mostly dark, as befits the nighttime setting, but a few pages have lovely deep gold tones.
Goodnight Max by Rosemary Wells. Viking. February 2000. Gift. Goodnight Max is part of Rosemary Wells' Max and Ruby series. It's a simple little book in which Max experiences various distractions that keep him from going to sleep. Big sister Ruby is a calm presence keeping things running smoothly. When Max spills a glass of water, Ruby is there with a towel and clean pajamas, etc. [As the oldest of four children, I personally identify with Ruby, though I have great affection for Max.] Of course Max settles down in the end.
One nice thing about the board book edition is that each page has something to touch, lift, and/or smell. It's not a busy, flap-filled book. Just a little something to engage the young listener on each page, like a window that lifts up, or a curtain that flaps in the nighttime breeze.
The language is perfect for young readers, with short sentences, and lots of easy to understand yet descriptive words. For example:
Max couldn't stand it.
Up went the window.
Out went the clock.
In flew a fly.
Buzz buzz went the fly.
Tickle tickle went the curtain.
Goodnight Max is just plain fun to read aloud, a favorite of both Mommy and Baby Bookworm. We have some other Max and Ruby books on our wish list.
A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na. Knopf. September 2009. Review copy. We actually have this one in picture book and board book editions, and I'm happy to have both. It starts:
When the sky grows dark
and the moon glows bright,
everyone goes to sleep...
... except for the watchful owl.
Then each page spread shows different ways that animals sleep, some quiet, some standing up, some alone, and some together. The text is quite minimalist, like this:
Some sleep peacefully alone,
While others sleep all together,
huddled close at night.
Excellent for a late-night reading, when you don't want to get too bogged down with details or definitions.
Na's illustrations are unconventional and beautiful. The picture book version explains that they "were created by combining handmade painterly textures with digitally generated layers, which were then compiled in Adobe Photoshop." The result is images like that of a sleeping elephant covered in a muted floral pattern, with little line sketches in the background of other elephants.
It's hard to even describe, but eye-catching and distinctive. More noticeable in the full picture book edition than the board book edition - the watchful owl makes an appearance on most of the other page spreads. The picture book is better for really taking in the details of the pictures, but the board book version is perfect for snuggling on the couch, and holding the book with one hand. I think this is going to remain one of our favorites.
Time for Bed written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Jane Dyer. Harcourt. September 1997. Gift. This is another one that we have in both picture book and board book editions, though we are mostly reading the board book edition right now. Time for Bed is written in rhyming couplets that each feature a baby animal going to sleep. Like:
It's time for bed, little fish, little fish,
So hold your breath and make a wish.
I woke up this morning thinking of:
It's time to sleep, little pup, little pup,
If you don't sleep soon the sun will be up.
The text is soothing and repetitive, and offers a window into some of the names that baby animals are called (like foal), though for the sake of the rhyme and rhythm, some animals are just called by their adult name (e.g. cat vs. kitten, deer vs. fawn). Mem Fox has a gift for at writing text that gets into your head and stays there, in a good way (like Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, one of my go-to gift books).
Jane Dyer's illustrations are as cozy and snug as the text, with each little animal lovingly tended by a parent. I especially like the little mouse, pink and sleepy-eyed, snug in a tree-root house.
And those, with Kiss Good Night, are our current favorite bedtime board books. What are we missing? What are your family's favorites?
© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).