For this month’s book list we asked some parents in the book world what bedtime favourites their children ask for again and again.
Jane Arthur, manager at Good Books, Wellington, poet and mother of Pete
We’ve somehow ended up with two identical copies of Peter Gossage’s How Maui Slowed the Sun in board book format, and every so often my three-year-old chooses both copies for his bedtime books. We read one copy all the way through, then pick up the other copy and read it all the way through. He’s especially interested in the pages where the sun is getting hit—I think probably because we always talk about no hitting in our family (of people and pets), so it’s a novel concept!
Helen Villers, Senior Lecturer in Language and Literacy at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Education, member of the Storylines Management Committee, and grandmother
The award for the very best “Baby please go to sleep” award goes to Tickle My Ears. Hands down and thumbs up, this simple, interactive board book will endure legions of grubby little fingers, exhausted mums and dads, and nanas and grandpas who insist on optimal literary experiences for their mokopuna.
What a treat this book is. There is an irresistible balance between the visuals, the read aloud part, and the opportunity to tap, fluff, tickle, stroke, tuck and finally kiss little rabbit goodnight. Our own cheeky little rabbits will almost certainly sleep well themselves after a ritual like this – and don’t forget to turn off the light!
How could there possibly be a more perfect bedtime story book for the two-plus-year-olds than Martin Waddell’s Owl Babies. This beautifully illustrated book is ‘just’ a story of three baby owls whose mother has gone off hunting for dinner, but it is so much more than that! This is a story about sibling order, about owl facts, about trust, resilience and overcoming the dreadful childhood fear that mums or dads may one day disappear and not return.
When shared in the cuddly comfort and warm glow of a bedtime story, it guarantees sweet dreams as well as an understanding of a much larger but manageable world out there in the dark.
The feel of Emily Gravett’s beautifully bound The Odd Egg in a readers’ hands, be they big or little, provides an enticing start. The text is spare but invites layers of conversational possibilities with children from three years onwards.
Older children will appreciate the irony and humour. The ending is wonderful and will inspire every single five- or six-year-old to collapse in fits of giggles.
Why? Well, all the birds have laid an egg. They are showing off about this and poor duck feels very left out until he finds a large green speckled egg to match his own feathers. He waits and waits and waits while one bird after another hatches an egg. While he waits, he knits baby booties and a scarf but his despair and jealously is overwhelming until one day…CRACK! – And out pops a baby alligator! The last page of the book depicts baby gator, scarf around his neck and webbed booties on his feet, trailing behind a very proud duck and saying (in a big loud voice) ‘Mama’. This is a favourite and a real keeper!
Emilie Harris, Trade Sales Director at Bounce Sales and Marketing, London, and mother of Eli
I absolutely love Leo Timmers and everything that he produces but Who’s Driving? is the book that we return to again and again. My young son is so drawn to the characters and different vehicles; he has the animals and methods of transport memorised and I get so much enjoyment out of how our discussions around the book evolve as his language develops. What started with fun noises has now moved onto talking about who’s the fastest, where are they going, and which one he likes the best. It means that we end the day with some really valued time not only reading but engaging with each other.
Originally I was a bit reluctant to give I Want to Be in a Scary Story to my son – I wondered if a child so young would find it too scary but mainly because it’s a lovely hardback edition signed by the illustrator Jean Jullien and I selfishly wanted to keep it pristine! However he was adamant that he needed to see it and so I relented. Jean Jullien’s bold illustrations have him completely captivated and the dialogue between character and author allow for plenty of creativity from the reader themselves. It also turns out that toddlers love spooky things such as witches and ghosts as much they do the silliness of giant monkeys. And parents love endings that hint to tomorrow and so therefore time to sleep!
Claire Mabey, Director of Verb Wellington, and mother of Charlie
My son and I are both captivated by the stories in Kitty Crowther’s Stories of the Night and the vivid (pink!) illustrations. We talk about the three leading characters Zhora and Bo and The Night Guardian all the time.
I think perhaps some of the charm of this book is the fact that there are three stories in one.
And they are simply compelling in their strange other-worldliness. Perfect, wise, dreamy bedtime stories for parents too.
I cannot tell you how many times we have read Monkey on the Run by Leo Timmers. The wordless story is such fantastic fodder for a little imagination.
Charlie loved this book when he was very little and has recently come back to it, even more fervently, in a new and interesting way. Now he loves it for its hide and seek qualities, almost more than the narratives.
Before bed every night we go through each page: my job is to pick out something tiny for Charlie to then try to find. He’s getting very good at it…
We’re currently in a Seuss phase and The Lorax is hands down the winner for Charlie (close second is Green Eggs and Ham). He particularly loves the language in The Lorax: ‘Grickle Grass’ and ‘Gluppity Glupp’ and ‘Schloppity Schlopp’.
But I also think he is beginning to be troubled (in the good kind of way that books can offer) by the destruction at the heart of the story. I’ve found it interesting that he tries to find signs of ‘everything is actually okay’ as the world descends into a capitalist environmental disaster zone: ‘THERE is another Truffula tree, there’s one left!; THAT Barb-a-loot looks happy!’ (there is one Barb-a-loot in a long line of hungry and forlorn Barb-a-loots who does look like he’s smiling in spite of it all). There is such an inherent optimism there – a need to claw back from the slippery slope!
Kuwi and Friends Māori Picture Dictionary is a large format, pictorial dictionary that’s a goldmine of fun learning. We’re both expanding our understanding of te reo Māori with this book.
At this stage Charlie is particularly fascinated by the spreads that delve into words for face and body parts, and the spreads for emotions and feelings: it’s brilliantly detailed and beautifully illustrated.
Charlie will often take this one into bed with him to ‘read’ on his own. He falls asleep on top of it so we have to creep in and slide it back out from under him.
I think this book reveals Margaret’s real genius – she understands how truly powerful the imagination is and the Little Boy and the Lion and the Dragon win the whole tale over.
I think this story heads straight into the wide, unpredictable world that children access so easily – the space that maybe adults forget, or allow to lie dormant for a bit too long.
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