The idea of staying up until midnight bewitches young children. It’s an impossibly late hour, far off as the North Pole, and particularly on New Year’s Eve, a magical moment. I went searching for children’s books that understand the elven intrigue of midnight, and here is what I found…
Midnight Moon, by Clyde Watson, illustrated by Susanna Natti published in 1979 by William Collins Publishers
This little gem is hands-down my favorite of the batch!
One little child is drifting to sleep when a charming Sandman (looking a bit like the Moomins’ Fillyjonk), comes a-sprinkling stardust in his eyes, wafting him past stars and ruby Mars, up to a midnight tea party with the Man in the Moon and his little dog.
Such a charming host! Nibbling on cinnamon stars, hearing his flute play windsongs, listening to tales of all the mystery and romance he sees during his midnight journeys over the earth…time passes sweetly. It’s time for the Sandman to whisk this small person back home so Mother Sun can awaken him in his own bed.
Clyde Watson has been spinning marvelous stories for children for nearly her whole life it seems, having grown up in an enviably-creative household. Susanna Natti’s charming illustrations steeped in midnight skies and sparkling golden stars feature a droll Man in the Moon, tricksy little dog, and one very lucky pajama-clad child.
A sweet size for small hands, this book is not in print which is a great shame. Search for it in your library, for ages 18 months and up.
Midnight Snowman, by Caroline Feller Bauer, illustrated by Catherine Stock published in 1987 by Atheneum
In our town, a young girl sighs, it rains, rather than snows, in winter.
Her only blizzards are in her dreams. Her only snow drifts are piles of Cream of Wheat she bulldozes around her cereal bowl in the morning.
So when it DOES snow in her town — a heavy wet snow that surely won’t stick around long — she isn’t about to lose her golden chance to make a snowman. Even if that means building him at midnight!
It’s a highly-contagious idea, and soon a festive, neighborhood, midnight, snowman-making party is underway! So jolly!
The realistic excitement of this story is accompanied by Catherine Stock’s lovely watercolors. I do so love her work! Her frosty midnight blues, polka-dotty snowflakes filling the air, and warm mingle of multiethnic neighbors are loose and friendly and as appealing as a cup of cocoa.
It’s a delightful read for ages 3 and up.
The Midnight Library, written and illustrated by Kazuno Kohara published in 2014 by Roaring Brook Press
Wouldn’t you just love to visit this cozy library? It’s open only from midnight to dawn, run by a supremely-capable little librarian and her three assistant owls.
Cats and dogs, rabbits and foxes, parade to her door each night. Peacefully they settle into nooks and crannies with story books.
When a boisterous band of squirrels comes with accordion and trumpet and violin and drum, the little librarian knows just how to manage.
When a tiny wolf reads a much-too-sad-story, the little librarian knows just the trick to comfort her.
When a new guest can’t bear to leave at closing-time without finishing his tale, the little librarian handles things with aplomb.
And when the sun stretches out its rays and the midnight library closes for the day, those three sleepy owl assistants get one last bedtime story from the nicest little librarian on the planet.
Kazuno Kohara’s prints are extraordinarily appealing. Darling, cheerful animals amid stacks of books, and a plucky pigtailed librarian rumple around the pages, all executed in bold lines and shapes in a palette limited to butternut gold, periwinkle blue, and deep charcoal. Slightly retro yet with a very contemporary vibe.
It’s a warmhearted, imaginative story for ages 2 and up.
The Midnight Circus, a wordless book by Peter Collington published in 1992 by Alfred Knopf
The little boy in this story lives in a flat in the city, right next door to a candy shop with a mechanical pony outside. He loves that pony. Loves to put his coin in the green metal box, climb into the saddle, and gallop off.
One day, though, he watches from his window as the pony is loaded into a truck, replaced by a snazzy rocket. Desperately he races down the stairs and along the sidewalk in pursuit, but he’s out of luck. The pony is gone.
That night the most curious thing happens. The boy spies a throng of pajama clad children silently racing through the dark streets. Following them, he meets his beloved pony and goes on a mysterious midnight ride, ending up at a most curious circus village. Soon it becomes clear that for the show to go on, he must ride that little white pony in a harrowing, showstopping performance!
Peter Collington has created a number of wordless books. His dozens of frames masterfully tell fantastical stories which my kids have greatly enjoyed over the years. Detailed, surreal landscapes create large backdrops against which this tiny boy heroically acts. It’s an imaginative adventure for ages 3 or 4 and up.
Cinderella, by Charles Perrault, illustrated by Marcia Brown published in 1954 by Charles Scribner’s Sons
You just can’t talk about magical midnights without including Cinderella!
How many Cinderella stories are there?! I wouldn’t want to hazard a guess. They come to us from other cultures. They are silly, romantic, lavish, set in various eras.
This is the Caldecott Medal winner from 1955, retold and illustrated by Marcia Brown.
I love the sparkling vocabulary of this rendition, and its old-fashioned cadence. Here’s an excerpt:
Now it happened that the king’s son was to give a ball. He invited everyone who was anyone, including our two young misses, for they cut quite a figure in the land. They were delighted with themselves, busy as you please choosing their costumes and headdresses to go with them. More work for Cinderella, for it was she who starched their linen and puffed their ruffles. Chitter chatter of nothing from morning to night but what they would wear and how they would look.
The sisters aren’t the comical oafs as in some other versions, and the ball spans two nights!
Marcia Brown’s vintage illustrations are full of the fancy tresses, golden curlicues, bejewelled gowns and chandeliers of a proper fairytale, all sketched in delicate, quavering line and tinted with blushes of pink, shimmers of gold, and that magical Cinderella-blue.
Of all the Cinderella versions you read, this classic ought to be one of them. Ages 4 and up.
Here’s wishing you a Happy New Year filled with stories and curious adventures from Orange Marmalade!