Harriet Ziefert’s “It’s Time to Say Good Night,” illustrated by the Paris-based artist known as Barroux, takes its inspiration from the Betty Comden and Adolph Green song “I Said Good Morning.” It’s a cheerful book, starring a happy little boy who looks out the window at the sun rising over green countryside and greets each thing he sees. “Good morning to the birdies and the bees. / Good morning to the garden, / Good morning to the earth, / Good morning to the water and the seeds.” Next, he hops onto a scooter and visits a city, where he says says good morning to trucks, cars and garbage cans. And then he turns around and says good night to them all before heading for his own cozy bed.
Barroux’s paintings have the look of watercolor painted with a thick brush: His colors are clear and bright, and his trick of leaving a white outline around each thing draws the eye to them and keeps his pages attractively light despite color that stretches all the way to the corners. He and Ziefert have worked together on other books (including “Bunny’s Lessons”) for Blue Apple Books, a small publisher in Maplewood, N.J., and their work here is complementary. While Barroux’s illustrations are freewheeling and casual, Ziefert’s update of the 1950s-era Comden and Green song is repetitive in a way that will appeal to toddlers who enjoy predicting what will come next. In the end, what comes next is — one hopes — a good night’s sleep.
Emily Winfield Martin’s “Dream Animals: A Bedtime Journey” is a rare, enchanting mixture of graceful rhyming verse and adorable, Hummel-sweet illustrations. Big-eyed boys and girls, of diverse ethnic backgrounds, embark on dream adventures with their animal familiars — their teddy bears or plush rabbits who at night grow big enough to carry the children to magical lands. “You only have to close your eyes / And when you snuggle in … / You’ll be carried to your dream tonight / On wing or paw or fin.” Martin’s paintings, in rich, creamy opaque colors, have a retro look that recalls early Golden Books, but with more brush-stroke texture. They’re so nursery-worthy you may be tempted to snip a few out and frame them. Martin, who previously wrote and illustrated “Oddfellow’s Orphanage” and “The Black Apple’s Paper Doll Primer” is in touch with something in the zeitgeist both old-fashioned and on-trend. “Dream Animals” belongs on the night stand of any child with a taste for extreme winsomeness.
Kids who like their bedtime books funny and not-so-sentimental will find Josh Schneider’s “Bedtime Monsters” to their taste. Arnold, an energetic boy of about 6, plays with his blocks after dinner — or more precisely, imagines himself as a monster attacking the city he’s built.
“It’s time for bed, Arnold,” said Mom.
“I’m still destroying New York,” said Arnold.
“Well, finish up,” said Mom.
Arnold tromped down Fifth Avenue with a terrible roar, then went and put on his pajamas.
Finally in bed, Arnold says he’s a little afraid of “the monster that comes out at night and bites off toes.” But his mother — fairly no-nonsense — tells him, “I’m sure he’s just as scared of you as you are of him” and turns out the light. What happens next proves both Arnold and his mother right as monster after monster, each with a hilarious, Dahl-esque name (the grozny buzzler, the winged fargle) appears and ends up in bed with Arnold, cowering in fear of, you guessed it, terrifying creatures called Arnolds. Throughout, Schneider’s writing is as entertaining and sharp-edged as his almost contour-style line drawings, painted in transparent but deep hues of yellows, purples and blues. Children ready to laugh at nighttime fears and recognize a bit of themselves in strong-willed Arnold should find lots to enjoy in “Bedtime Monsters,” which ends, like so many of the best books — and the best bedtimes — with a child smiling as he drifts off to sleep.