Against Bedtime: Picture Books for Sleep-Averse Toddlers

BookendsLynn: I haven’t mentioned the Focus Group in a while. Currently, the oldest members are 13, the youngest three. They are all still highly opinionated about books. Little Oscar, definitely his own person, trundles around entertaining himself and doing his own thing. Oscar loves books, favoring anything about cars, trucks, and machines. He does not love bedtime. To say that he is bedtime-resistant is putting it mildly.

We were there visiting recently, and I had, as usual, brought a stack of books to try out on the boys. I had a surprise: two books about bedtime became the books we read over and over during the weekend. Actually, they were books about avoiding bedtime. Perhaps their popularity shouldn’t have been a surprise after all.

Mama's Kisses by Kate McMullanKate McMullan’s Mama’s Kisses (2017) was one, and it was adorable. It’s bedtime, and four jungle mamas hope their sweet sleepyheads are tired and yawning. However, the next page shows the baby animals are anything but! They are wide awake and having playtime adventures, sword-fighting and swimming. The babies decide to play a trick and hide from their mamas, who search for them everywhere. But their giggles give them away, and the clever mothers capture their mischievous offspring. After their mothers rock and sing to them, the babies and their mothers curl up for sweet dreams.

Tao Nyeu’s round and cuddlesome characters are drawn with ink, colored pencils, and PhotoShop. Using only soft yellows, blues, and oranges on a white background, she somehow achieves both a soothing feel and a vibrant appearance. McMullan’s simple rhyming text makes this bedtime story a joy to read aloud.

I Just Want to Say Good Night by Rachel IsadoraOscar’s other favorite is I Just Want to Say Good Night (2017) by Rachel Isadora, about a darling toddler with masterful delaying techniques.

Lala lives on what appears to be the African plains. It is time for bed. But Lala first wants to say goodnight to her papa, who has been fishing. Bedtime? No! There are so other things to say goodnight to: fish, cat, goat, chickens, ants, the rock, her book. . . you get the idea.

Isadora’s gorgeous oil paint illustrations, set in glowing tones, depict a sky backlit by the setting sun. Each illustration spreads across two pages and depicts a family experience that will be universally familiar to toddlers and their parents. A late-breaking twist will add to the conversation bedtime readers are sure to have.

Oscar loved this book so much that my son was worried he might be pick up some new strategies! I wasn’t worried—he’s already a master tactician.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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