Somewhere in the World Right Now by Stacey Schuett is a beautiful book that introduces the concept of time zones and geography and what’s happening at any given moment around the world. The art is superb. In fact, it’s one of those excellent books where it is almost obvious that the author had to be the illustrator as well… because the marriage between word and picture is so complete and so congruent. The book would be an excellent study for any child studying the world-at-large or time zones in particular. I also think it pairs nicely with the excellent On the Same Day in March: A Tour of the World’s Weather as they both give an instant glance at the larger cultural/sociological picture of life. I sigh a happy sigh when these types of educational books are executed in a way that the educational attempts of it are not so orchestrated and obvious… but flow seamlessly and beautifully within the book. Well done indeed!
I had to read it twice. I wasn’t in the right mindset at first and I found myself getting lost in the lyrical side of it, wondering what the heck relevance this book had to a young reader. The pictures were gorgeous of course, and the text placement well thought out and the paper quality excellent… but I missed the magic boat initially. So I read it again without my analytical, book critic glasses on. It occurred to me that from the perspective of a young child, this book was a pure slice of lovely. Who cares if it was slightly off-center with where-is-this-going logic?! I had to look at it the way I have to look at the genius of the incomparable A Hole Is to Dig for example.
If you want to see a whale you shouldn’t watch the clouds, some floating by some hanging down in the sky, that’s spread out side to side or the certain sun that’s shining because if you start to look straight up you just might miss a whale.
I read an interview of Fogliano recently where she remarked that she loved working with Erin Stead because Stead often knew what she was trying to express better than she did. And I think this point is especially evocative in this story. The illustrations make the magic; they connect the sometimes disparate sentences. Don’t get me wrong; the writing is great, and the cadence is well done… you just have to snuggle up with someone little and love it with them and for them to really appreciate it.
A good story is a good story. And a good story is always a good choice for bedtime. But some books are specifically about bedtime, sleep or goodnight rituals and are particularly dear to have on hand for toddler sets. What makes a good bedtime book? Excellent art. A slow pace. A lyrical cadence. Or all of the above. Many of the titles below embody all of those qualities… here is my personal Top 10 Goodnight/Sleep/Bedtime storybooks:
Time for Bed by Mem Fox. This was the first, full price picture book I think I ever bought. And I bought it, interestingly for one of the same reasons that one reviewer on Amazon poo-poohed it: it’s size. You can get this as a board book and a smaller paperback, but I bought the large book edition. I loved the idea of having such large, lovely illustrations totally fill in a child’s line of vision before bedtime. Now, it’s not so big as to be awkward and unwieldy… it’s just a nice, jumbo size book. Many sleep books aren’t.
Sailor Song by Nancy Jewell. I chose this for pure nostalgia’s sake. I read it often to my firstborn when his papa was overseas; it is a homecoming bedtime tale. Sweet and soft. The illustrations are done by Stefano Vitale, whose work I admire very much.
Night Knight by Davey Owen. Just found and discovered and loved a few weeks ago. You can read more about that here.
It’s Time to Sleep, My Love by Eric Metaxes. The rhyming on this is very much like Time for Bed. The artwork is surreal. There are elements of it that appear strange or eerie in a lovely, only-half-awake kind of way; my three year old daughter loves this one.
When the Wind Stops by Charlotte Zolotow. “And where do clouds go when they move across the sky?” “To make shade somewhere else.” So goes this classic, gorgeous question and answer discussion between a young lad and his mother. Stefano Vitale is featured again here in exquisite form. So it may or may not be a “must read” but if you do read it, When the Wind Stops is definitely a “must love.”
A Mouse Told His Mother by Bethany Roberts. Excellent bedtime banter here not too unlike Runaway Bunny. The art is detailed and wonderful and as it should, the adventures end with young mouse falling asleep.
If You’re Afraid of the Dark Remember the Night Rainbow by Cooper Edens. Perfect for children and teens and adults; this book was given to me on my 15th birthday and I treasure it’s strange, lovely quirkiness still.
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. Did you really think I’d forget this? As one of the bestselling children’s books of all time, even non-discerning parents often have this on their shelves. Their seems to be an unspoken code that this is a mandatory title. I held out for a long time just because things this popular spark the ‘go against the grain rebel’ in me. But eventually, I caved and like so many others, can recite it practically by heart now. That makes me happy.
Here is a fresh bedtime story! Released in the US just this year, Night Knight(not to be confused with the fun little homonym book: Night, Knight is an excellent end-of-the-day ritual book. There are few words… but it is the artwork that is truly memorable. The limited palette is so rich to look at; I was surprised that this was done entirely with digital media. It reminds me just a tad of some of Maurice Sendak’s work. One reviewer hit it spot on: you could essentially buy the book just to cut up (*gasp*) for the artwork to hang in a young lad’s room… it’s that good. Anyway, this was one of those welcome surprise grabs from the library and my five year old son and I had a good time exploring some of the pictures. I am eager now to check out author/illustrator Owen Davey’s original, wordless story: Foxly’s Feast.