Preschool bedtime books

After saying goodnight to veggies (see Five questions for Diana Murray and Zachariah OHora), listeners can also enjoy these four recent bedtime books. For more, click the tag Bedtime Books.

Brown Baby Lullaby
by Tameka Fryer Brown; illus. by AG Ford
Preschool    Farrar    32 pp.    g
1/20    978-0-374-30752-3    $16.99

Chronicling the nighttime routine of a family, Brown has penned a bedtime story that is immediately warm and relatable for families with young children. We follow an Afro-Latinx couple as they finish their day with their little one and entreat him to “Look, mi hijo, at the sun / Setting now that day is done / Moonlight’s breaking, night’s begun / Come, my sweet brown baby.” Activities include cooking dinner while their “noisy rowdy baby” bangs on pots and pans, dinnertime during which the “independent baby” attempts to feed himself, bath time with a “silly splashy baby,” and a bedtime blessing of “Buenas noches, baby.” Double-page spreads portray the family dynamic: the mischievous grin between father and son during prayer time, the warm family hug as the parents dry baby off after a bath. While the facial expressions of the mother and father remain mostly peaceful and calm, illustrator Ford captures the toddler’s changing emotions as he goes through his nighttime routine. With the rhythmic text and engaging illustrations, here’s a book that could become part of yours. EBONI NJOKU

I’m Brave! I’m Strong! I’m Five!
by Cari Best; illus. by Boris Kulikov
Preschool, Primary    Ferguson/Holiday    32 pp.
10/19    978-0-8234-4362-8    $18.99

In this intrepid bedtime story, an independent young girl confronts and overcomes her fear of the dark by reminding herself, “I’m brave! I’m strong! I’m five!” It’s time for bed, but Sasha isn’t tired: she uses her flashlight to make a star, a car with one headlight, and a lighthouse that blinks on and off; she bounces on her bed “like a girl kangaroo that doesn’t want to sleep.” Looking out her window, she sees the moon and its “giant eye staring down at me.” She’s about to call Mama and Papa, but then resolves, “I can do this myself,” because “I’m brave! I’m strong! I’m five!” This mantra (along with the light of her flashlight) helps Sasha face a series of challenges — a shadow with six arms, a loud crash, a scary face. “I didn’t call Mama. I didn’t call Papa. I did everything myself. Hooray!” Cinematic and bold, Kulikov’s crosshatched illustrations effectively use lighting to create and then dispel Sasha’s fearful imaginings. In a nearly dark bedroom, the shadows do create a spooky six-armed monster and a scary ghostly face. But then, under the warm glow of the flashlight, the eerie and shadowy are revealed as ordinary: a costume, the girl’s reflection in a mirror. Equal parts sincere and entertaining, this is a story that affirms and empowers children as they face their own bedtime fears. EMMIE STUART

Bedtime for Sweet Creatures
by Nikki Grimes; illus. by Elizabeth Zunon
Preschool    Sourcebooks Jabberwocky    32 pp.    g
1/20    978-1-4926-3832-2    $17.99

Grimes puts an animal-centric spin on a youngster’s innovations for bedtime stalling. This lushly illustrated story, on double-page spreads full of bold, saturated color, opens with an African American child’s firm attestation: “No! No! No!” It’s bedtime, and this young person wants no part of it. The narrator, the child’s mother, speaks in an immediate second-person voice. “In the forest of your room, you cling to Bear. I turn back the sheets, and you GROWL. ‘In you both go,’ I say.” In response to each of Mommy’s directives, the child’s defiance conjures a colorful creature, adorned with geometric patterns. In most cases, the imagined animal is larger than the protagonist, emphasizing just how strong bedtime resistance can be. The child freezes in place like Fawn, hangs onto Mommy’s neck like Koala, crouches and pounces like Tiger, and hops like Antelope, all of which contribute to the difficulties of winding down for sleep. Zunon mixes realistic portrayals of the human characters with more stylized depictions of the animals, to highlight the role the child’s imagination is playing. The gender-unspecified protagonist, wearing a footed red onesie with a back flap, helps all young listeners see themselves in these scenarios. A clever bedtime tale for stubborn, active, twenty-first-century kids. MICHELLE H. MARTIN

What Color Is Night?
by Grant Snider; illus. by the author
Preschool    Chronicle    48 pp.
11/19    978-1-4521-7992-6    $15.99

“What color is night? / Is it only black… / and white?” So begins an evocative picture book that urges young viewers to “look closer” at the night — to see, for example, the golden glow of fireflies, the neon lights of the city, the silver of the Milky Way, the green of a raccoon’s eyes. Deeply saturated double-page spreads use inky dark backgrounds to effectively highlight those pops of color and light. And though it is the striking art that may rivet a child audience’s attention, the text, with its soothing rhythms and strong near-rhymes full of rich long vowels (“road” / “glow”), is an equal partner. The shivery, otherworldly quality of both art and text ramps up at the end, where the little girl we initially saw looking out her window into the darkness dreams of flying through the sky in a hot-air balloon, soaring above pink and purple clouds into “a night of good dreams.” Pair this with Mordicai Gerstein’s The Night World (rev. 5/15) to show the dark as something to explore and appreciate, not fear. MARTHA V. PARRAVANO

From the April 2020 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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