Readers of a certain age (and I'll admit that I'm one of them) will feel waves of nostalgia when they turn the pages of My Go to Bed Book. The familiar Dick-and-Jane style drawings, the slightly antiquated typesetting, the quaint messages in rhyming text, all take us back to the days when Baby Boomers were toddlers, and good little children knew when and how to march off to bed and allow their parents to enjoy the cocktail hour in peace. This trip-back-in-time comes courtesy of B &andamp; H Publishing Group, which discovered a copy of this 1950s treasure in its archives and is reprinting it in a board book version which will be available next month.
The title page announces that this is a book that mothers will appreciate because of its appeal in making bed-time a pleasant, happy experience for the child. And also for the parents, we would add. The charming tow-headed youngster pictured in My Go to Bed Book dutifully observes the 7:00 time on a wall clock and begins his bedtime routine taking off his britches, bathing, brushing his teeth, hearing a bedtime story from his mother and saying his prayers before quietly slippping into bed. Parents everywhere will sigh and wonder, why isn't bedtime like this at our house?The author of this comforting little tale was Hildegarde Ford, an Illinois woman who couldn't find the kind of books she wanted to read to her children and decided to write her own. Ford (who used her maiden name when writing and was actually known as Velma Morrison) joined with illustrator Mary Win to create My Go to Bed Book, which was first published by Broadman Press in 1956 and has been out of print for more than 20 years. Described as a Renaissance woman, Ford taught school, ran a dairy farm with her husband, raised four children, studied genetics and archaeology in her spare time (she was one of the first to raise and sell hybrid chickens) and traveled the world with her husband after retirement. She was excited by the publisher's plan to re-release her book, although she did not live to see it happen. Ford died in April in Princeton, Illinois, at the age of 97. Her illustrator, Mary Win Walter Norris, now 93, still lives in Princeton and paints occasionally in her studio.
B&andamp;H Executive Editor Paul Mikos, who stumbled across an original copy of My Go to Bed Book in the company's archives, recalls, The art captured my attention immediately, striking me as both nostalgic and timeless. His curiosity piqued, Mikos began researching the book's history. It sat on my desk for several weeks while I Googled and sleuthed, trying to find more information on the author and illustrator. Nearly everyone who visited my office during that time had to pick up the book or comment that the style and colors reminded them of Goodnight Moon or Curious George. Now, Mikos says, his own daughter is enjoying the book. My two-year-old has worked it into her bedtime ritual, insisting on reading it four or five times each sitting, he says.
Mikos credits Carol Bird, director of the Matson Public Library in Princeton, as being instrumental in tracking down Ford and Win and connecting them with their former publisher. The library will celebrate the grand opening of a new facility in September, and B&andamp;H has donated a complete collection of its children's books in honor of Velma Hildegarde Ford Morrison.