Bedtime stories lauding
the sweetness of sleep and the goodness of nighttime
are perennial favorites, at least as much for weary parents hoping to soothe little ones into drowsiness as for child listeners.
Here’s a patchwork quilt of goodnight stories to please a wide array of preferences.
I’ve also collected all the Nighttime-Bedtime-Sleepytime books I’ve reviewed over the years in a new list which I’ve linked to at the end of the post in case you’re in the mood for even more somnolence.
If you’re looking for a story thats…
GORGEOUS AND ADVENTUROUS:
The Night Walk, written and illustrated by Marie Dorléans
published in 2021 by Floris Books
Perhaps adventurous is not the descriptive you’d usually associate with nighttime stories but this tale of a family’s midnight hike is pretty much the perfect, starlit, dream-come-true for me!
Mama awakens the children in the middle of the night. She says they need to get ready “so we get there on time.” Curiosity is immediately piqued — what appointment might they have? Once dressed, out into the purple-blue light they go, the whole family quietly walking through the town and out into the shadowy, silent countryside.
Up into the hills they climb, moon-playing, star-gazing, yet still hurrying a bit in order to be on time to see…
…the stunning light of dawn. Splendid through and through. Ages 3 and up.
COZY & ADORABLE:
Goodnight Sleepyville, written by Blake Liliane Hellman, illustrated by Steven Henry
published in 2020 by Bloomsbury Children’s Books
In Sleepyville, a bevy of charming bunnies, foxes, bears and other fuzzy woodland creatures are getting ready for bed at day’s end.
Watch them amble their ways toward all kinds of wee homes, nibble nice food, squiggle into jammies, snuggle up with stories, and snoozle into dreamland.
Just plain adorable for ages 2 and up.
ENCHANTING AND JOYOUS:
The Midnight Fair, by Gideon Sterer, illustrated by Mariachiara Di Giorgio
published in 2021 by Candlewick
During the day, a summer fair burbles with happy people. But what happens when night descends, the crowds go home, and the gatekeeper locks up?
Well!! I’ll tell you what!! From out of the woods come the animal folk, and amidst the golden glow of lights they enjoy a splendiferous time! Their currency is quite different from ours — acorns, flower petals, feathers. But their delight in whirling rides, games of chance, and clouds of pink cotton candy appears to be just the same.
Soak up the amazing, magical, imaginative scenes of the midnight fair, illustrated by the same artist who helped create another of my favorite books, Professional Crocodile. Words simply can’t convey the sparkle of joy and elegance of lighting achieved on every page. I truly swoon over her work. It’s one of the most tantalizing books you could ask for. Share it with ages 3 and up!
LOVELY & INQUISITIVE:
What Color is Night? written and illustrated by Grant Snider
published in 2019 by Chronicle Books
Here’s a gorgeous, hushed, reflective book prompting quiet wonderings and peaceful imaginings.
“What color is night?” the book asks. “Is it only black and white?” What an excellent question to pose to anyone, young or old. “Look closer,” we are beckoned. Then, in page after page of deep, saturated colors and calm, abstracted shapes we encounter the many colors of nighttime. There are deep blues in the sky, and the moon is a nice buttery yellow. What can you see that’s silver, orange, or pink?
Simultaneously lulling and captivating, this little beauty will fill little ones’ minds with lovely ideas to ponder as they drift off to sleep. A gem for ages 2 and up.
FUNNY AND FRIENDLY:
Click, Clack, Good Night, written by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin
published in 2020 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
This beloved crew is back for yet again another episode of warmhearted fun.
It’s time for bed and Farmer Brown settles all the animals comfortably in their respective spaces, attending to the particulars of each one — brushing out tangles, giving goodnight pats, or clicking on a night light. But one animal is wide awake. It’s Duck.
Farmer Brown is uncommonly accommodating to Duck’s non-drowsiness, but after awhile even the Farmer nods off. Duck is on his own to find just the right spot for sleep, and it’s dashed difficult! There are rustlings and cheepings and disturbances everywhere! Finally Duck comes up with the perfect recipe for sleep. What might that be?! Amiable and guaranteed-to-please kids ages 3 and up.
WOODSY AND BEAUTIFUL:
Hello, Moon, written and illustrated by Julie Downing
published in 2021 by Neal Porter Books/Holiday House
A gentle, hushed, lyrical text leads us into the moonlit forest where we’re greeting the moon and all nighttime, woodsy wanderers.
Owls and moths, raccoons and mice are out and about rustling, squeaking, pouncing, fluttering. A thunderstorm chases the fox family back to their cozy den. Dawn breaks and the mice curl up in their snug nest. Owls and stars both go to bed as we greet the day and bid goodnight to night.
Lush, velvety illustrations in cool violets, teal, and black, caress every page of this splendid book. It’s a superb choice to share again and again with little ones ages 2 and up.
COMFORTING AND COMMUNAL:
Night Walk, written by Sara O’Leary, illustrated by Ellie Arscott
published in 2020 by Groundwood Books
This lovely, gentle story joins the growing collection of children’s books about the joys of walking in city neighborhoods at night. I have a soft spot for each one of them.
In this account, one young child can’t seem to fall asleep so Dad suggests a night time ramble. In the cool, starlit night, they amble down the sidewalk noticing the glow of lights in windows, spotting neighbors going about their evening routines, noting the ongoing bustle of the city, and finally winding up at a deserted playground enveloped by quietness.
It’s a happy, sweet moment for the two of them and brings a satisfying realization to the child of how much this place feels like home. The gorgeous watercolor illustrations grace each page with the richness of the nighttime sky and the warmth of each home space, and evoke a sense of comfort, community, and familiarity. Share this with ages 3 and up.
FULL OF TALKATIVE URBAN VEGETABLES:
Goodnight, Veggies, written by Diana Murray, illustrated by Zachariah OHora
published in 2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
A rooftop garden of veggies cease their daily tossing and turning and nestle down for the night in this quirky, snappy, happy tale.
Potatoes close their eyes. Rhubarbs read bedtime stories. Cukes, yams, beets…you name it, they’re all settling in for a good night of sleep.
Unapologetically eccentric, with cool, funky, contemporary artwork that transitions from bright white daylit pages to the inky black of nighttime, this is a book that defies dreary bedtime pablum. It’s a blast for ages 2 and up.
The Nice Dream Truck, written by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Brigette Barrager
published in 2021 by Harper
The Nice Dream Truck is tring-tringing along its way to bring you a scrumptious array of sweet dreams. The possibilities are as tantalizing as a bowl full of sprinkles, a towering swirl of whipping cream, a radiant river of raspberry sherbet!
Dreams about puppies or princesses, double-dip birthdays or slam dunks, jolly dragons or any other magical wish imaginable are all ready to be scooped, dished, sprinkled, and served up to lucky kids.
Send your small fry to bed with a bowlful of happy possibilities for dreamland. Bright artwork capturing the glee of dreams-come-true and ice-cream-mania spill across these pages making it pretty much impossible to come away from this story without a smile on your face. Ages 3 and up.
CLEVER AND PUZZLING:
Where is the Dragon? written and illustrated by Leo Timmers, translated by James Brown
originally published in The Netherlands in 2019; English edition 2021 by Gecko Press
The king is too nervous to sleep, as nightmares of dragons are dancing in his head. So he orders his three knights to head out into the scary nighttime forest and save the realm. Or just the king. Not really fussy about that detail.
Having never seen a dragon before, these knights rely on the king’s descriptions. Dragons are spiky, toothy, with flaring nostrils. In the deep dark woods, however, the knights keep mistaking shadowy shapes for the real deal. Can you guess what the knights have bumped into before they do? It’s very tricksy!
When the silhouettes are spotlighted what we discover is so surprising! A tantalizing concept with a delicious twist of an ending. This is a brilliant piece of storytelling for kids ages 4 and up.
BUSTLING AND FUNKY:
While You’re Sleeping, written by Mick Jackson, illustrated by John Broadley
first published in the UK in 2020; U.S. edition 2021 by Pavilion Children’s
Just as the kids suspected, while they’re hustled off to bed “lucky” grown-ups are busy doing all sorts of interesting jobs. This book fills us in on all the wide-awake, night time goings-on in towns and countryside alike:
Bakers baking, taxi drivers taxiing, nurses checking on their charges. Of course, sleepless parents are up in the night feeding and changing and comforting little ones.
Outside the city nocturnal folks like owls, bats, and foxes are working hard too, hunting for food, while on the other side of the sea, it’s daytime and kids are in school or playing. Imagine that. Delicious food for thought is presented here amidst spectacular illustration work. Gallons of vigorous line, a retro linocut groove, and intriguing details are crammed into these reverberating pages. Despite all the bustle, the hope here is that busy little minds will have something new to ponder as they fall….fast……..asleep. Ages 3 and up.
Looking for more slumber-ful suggestions? Check the dozens of excellent titles on my sleepy page here.
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