Ralph Waldo Emerson had the right idea when he wrote, There was never a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him to sleep. Here are the latest sleepytime books to help get your little lovelies to bed.
Start with two choices that make a super combination. First, Hush Little Baby: A Folk Song with Pictures (all ages). Marla Frazee's lively illustrations are based on living history studies at Fort New Salem, West Virginia. Her splendid details of life in a mountain cabin bring plenty of fun to the classic lullaby.
Next is Hush, Little Alien, a sci-fi parody of the same lullaby. Daniel Kirk's little green aliens will win your heart as the father romps through extraterrestrial orbits, singing lines like, If that shooting star's too hot, Papa's gonna find you an astronaut! Both books are standouts, and even more fun together.
More traditional poems await in Twilight Verses Moonlight Rhymes. Mary Joslin has compiled a variety of verse, including many familiar (Wee Willie Winkie and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star), many new, and some speaking of God. Liz Pichon's illustrations make the text sing even louder.
My own childhood bedtime ritual often included Remy Charlip's classic book Fortunately. Charlip has a new bedtime tale, Sleepytime Rhyme (all ages), a mother's simple yet elegant ode to her child. No doubt parents and children will soon memorize the rhyme, which begins: I love you./I think/You're grand./There's none/Like you/In all the land. The illustrations are sparse and ethereal, but fun; the rhyme is full of emotion without gushing.
Young children will enjoy the simple adventures of a girl named Poppy in Melanie Walsh's Hide and Sleep (ages 1-4). Poppy wants to hide at bedtime, but the hamper is too smelly, the dog bed occupied, and so forth, until finally her bed is just right.
My five-year-old loves Mem Fox's Sleepy Bears (ages 3-6), in which a mother bear prepares her six youngsters for hibernation by giving each his or her own special rhyme. One bear gets a pirate poem, for instance; another becomes a queen with a castle. Be sure to study Kerry Argent's lively watercolors as a stuffed elephant gets passed from bear to bear, the candles get shorter as the evening passes, and one bear munches on cereal then brushes his teeth in bed.
Another book worthy of close scrutiny is Morning, Noon, and Night (ages 3-8). Newbery Medalist Jean Craighead George delivers another of her superb meditations on nature, as animals from the East to West Coasts awake, work, rest, and play during the course of a day. Wendell Minor's illustrations are, as usual, breathtaking. Don't miss the endnotes that identify the animals on each spread and the location of their varied habitats.
One final bedtime rhyme is Lynn Plourde's unusual poem, Wild Child (all ages). As Mother Earth puts her Wild Child to bed, her offspring pleads for a song, a snack, and other bedtime treats. The rewards are all the fruits of fall, such as apples and red and golden leaves and the Wild Child turns out to be Autumn. No sooner is Autumn asleep than another child stirs, and this one is Winter. Greg Couch's acrylic and colored pencil illustrations set just the right earthy, autumnal mood. Sweet dreams!