A lyrical bedtime reverie; an open-only-at-night library run by a little librarian; a toddler’s pre-dawn escapades; and a kooky bedtime cruise: four new picture books help smooth the way from daytime activity to bedtime quiet.
Simona Mulazzani’s lush folk art in cozy nighttime colors lends a magical, drowsy atmosphere to Giovanna Zoboli’s The Big Book of Slumber, a large-format ode to the joys of dreamland. Translated from the Italian, soothing rhyming couplets are full of rhythm and repetition: “Mouse ate her apple and read her nice book. / Who else is sleeping? Just take a good look.” Appealingly drawn sleeping arrangements include some captivatingly out of the ordinary: Hippo sleeps on a sofa, giraffes in sleeping bags, and seals in armchairs propped up in the trees. (Eerdmans, 2–5 years)
Welcome to The Midnight Library, written and illustrated by Kazuno Kohara, a friendly spot for animals from “all over the town” to “find a perfect book.” A little-girl librarian and her three owl assistants cheerfully bustle around the packed bookshelves, where small dramas are happily resolved alongside library business-as-usual. This dream of a library is designed with lots of reading nooks, comfy chairs, lanterns, and trees. The gentle story and vibrant compositions have an old-fashioned sensibility and simplicity that capture the enchantment of the middle-of-the-night goings on. (Roaring Brook, 2–5 years)
Hannah’s Night by Komako Sakai begins enticingly: “One day when Hannah woke up, she was surprised to find that it was still dark.” Hannah’s day holds all sorts of surprises — because it’s still the middle of the night. Everyone else is asleep, so she eats cherries from the refrigerator; then, emboldened, Hannah gleefully borrows all her sound-asleep sister’s best stuff and takes it back to her own bed to play with. Sakai is a master at capturing toddlers’ body language and expressions, and her brief text clearly telegraphs the freedom Hannah feels on this toddler-sized adventure. (Gecko, 2–5 years)
For those who’d rather embark on silly bedtime adventures, Thank You, Octopus by Darren Farrell is a hilarious nautical comedy of errors. “Bedtime, ahoy,” Octopus declares. His young shipmate isn’t thrilled. Doting Octopus knows that a warm bath, jammies, and a favorite story can help make the transition easier, and he’s prepared — in theory. He talks the bedtime talk, but his best intentions wildly miss their mark. A “nice warm bath” sounds lovely (“Thank you, Octopus”), but a page-turn shows Octopus and boy headed into a huge vat of egg salad. “Gross! No thank you, Octopus.” Farrell’s detailed cartoon illustrations cleverly foreshadow the antics. (Dial, 3–6 years)
From the June 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.