31 Days: Books for Nighttime

Last night, I realized that Clara has been making some very specific requests for her bedtime reading. Since it can be tricky to find just the right book to use at that time of day, I thought I’d share her current favorites here. I know that some kids can handle any story at bedtime, and that’s great. Bethany tends to have trouble sleeping anyway, so we make sure that her bedtime choices are calm, zero percent scary, and stress-free. Clara is an easier sleeper, but can get quite wound up just by giggling, so calm choices are in order for her as well.

A Good Night Walk

Here is the book that inspired this post. Elisha Cooper’s A Good Night Walk takes the reader on a short jaunt down the street and back. Over the course of the book, the pictures and text travel through what is happening in the neighborhood as the sun begins to set. People finish their yard work, prepare a meal, and get ready for the next day. On the return trip, we see the “next steps” of some of these activities. The language is lovely, and the neighborhood is typical of many in urban areas. This might not resonate as well with little ones who truly live in the country, but for anyone with nearby neighbors, there is plenty to discuss.

As we go through the pages, Clara loves to watch the sky, see the colors in it change, and notice the moon as it appears. There are also a few animals in the book, and she waits eagerly to see them appear on both directions of the walk. If your little one isn’t quite yet ready for the whole story, this is still a neat book to use and discuss the pictures. Obviously, it also begs for you to take a short walk at this time of day and see what happens in your own neighborhood as the sun begins to set.

A Book of Sleep

I first learned about Il Sung Na when I discovered Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit, which is a beautiful book about the changing of seasons. This selection, A Book of Sleep, is just as gorgeous. The animals in the story are stylized, so kiddos who really want things to look realistic may be disappointed. Nonetheless, the story provides an atmosphere of quiet and calm, really encouraging the child listening to settle her mind and get ready to rest. Just as each animal in the story sleeps differently and prepares differently, your child(ren) can think about how we get ready for rest, and different ways that we sleep as humans.

A fun extra: I just discovered that Il Sung Na’s website has an app version of this story, which you can find in a YouTube version here. The narration is downright soporific, if you have a child who likes to listen to stories at bedtime.

Goodnight Moon

I know, I know. Listing this is cheating. Everyone loves Goodnight Moon, and I’m certainly no exception. However, there is a reason that everyone loves it: children find it enchanting. It’s mysterious, really. No child on the planet could possibly be calmed to sleep in an enormous room painted in hideous shades of green and orange with a gigantic anthropomorphic rabbit hushing him while rocking and knitting. Regardless, this is a classic for good reason, and it belongs in your home library. Plus, little people memorize it very easily and can recite it to themselves as they drift off. (<— That was funny. I just implied that children like to put themselves to sleep. Haha.)

{Those links will let you purchase the books I’ve mentioned, and I receive a small commission if you buy any of them.}


Click on the picture below for more great book ideas from this month.

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31 Days: I got nothing, y’all.

Since I cannot pull together an organized thought, I’ll spare you some rambling monologue about nothing.

Instead, I’ll point you to my favorite resource for teaching folks about respectful ways to address American Indian issues with children (in the classroom or out of it): American Indians in Children’s Literature.

Dr. Debbie Reese, who writes the blog, is amazing and insightful, and pulls zero punches when it comes to skewering portrayals of American Indians in popular literature. She also once gave me a brilliant email response to an issue I faced when I worked for our state Department of Education, and helped me know that I was not in the wrong. I will be forever grateful for her advice in that moment.

So. As we head down the road to November, take some time and read through her archives. I’ll share some suggested literature later this month and next.


31 Days: Literary Junk Food

Just like you can’t eat kale three meals a day for a year, nor can you read Shakespeare to your kids all day every day. (Well, maybe you can. That’s great. I don’t.) (Also: I don’t like kale.)


Dav Pilkey knows his way around an entertaining kids’ book. I am not always his biggest fan, and his best-known works about a superhero who eschews clothing will never live in my house. This, on the other hand, is just silly enough to be fun, without going so far down the path to disgusting that it’s inappropriate. In Hallowiener, one sweet little dachshund falls victim to his mother’s helicopter parenting. In an attempt to keep the peace, he agrees to wear the mortifying hot dog costume she buys him for Halloween.

When the other dogs mock him, he’s sad, but true to classic children’s book form, our hero saves the day when some pesky cats try to scare the dogs on Halloween night. Somewhere in here, I think there’s a lesson about bullying, done in a lighthearted way. The story moves at a quick pace, and has plenty of action for reluctant readers. Your kids will love it, and it’s the kind of thing that won’t hurt them if they read it a few times every October.

{Those are compensated affiliate links, by the way.}

For more great books, click on the image below.

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31 Days: Brown Bear, as Bill Martin Intended

Today’s selection is hardly ground-breaking. In fact, I’m pretty sure that this is a book that people own even when they tend to say things like, “I don’t keep books in the house, we just get them at the library.”

Brown Bear

Bill Martin and Eric Carle’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? is accurately labeled a classic, and if for some reason you haven’t read it, now would be a good time to find it. There are umpteen versions of it. We have three in our house at the moment, but my favorite is this one, with sliding bits on each page. It makes the “what do you see question” a little bit more exciting, and it’s a pretty fun little fine motor activity for toddlers.

Here’s something I didn’t know until I actually had my own children: you can sing it. Now, I know some of you are probably not very excited about the possibility of singing out loud. In this case, it’s totally worth it. Don’t believe me? Click on the link on the next line.


Indeed, that is Bill Martin himself singing the story to you. Sit back and enjoy it – it’s a real treat. If you don’t have your own copy of Brown Bear, consider buying one. If you’ve just been reading it in a halfhearted singsong, try singing it. You might be surprised at the results.

{Those book links? They are indeed compensated affiliate links.}

For more great book ideas I’ve shared in October, click on the picture below.

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31 Days: Halloween Hits

Today, as promised, I’m sharing some newer Halloween books that we read over and over again this time of year. I tend to get the Halloween books out of storage around the first of October, and then I try to get them put away again very shortly after the 31st. I’ve found that if I don’t do that (and this goes equally for the classroom and at home), they lose a little bit of their magic. Also, you get a lot of cheers when you pull out favorite books that no one’s seen in a year, and who doesn’t like cheering?

Five Little Pumpkins

First up is a book the likes of which I don’t normally recommend. It’s not that I philosophically oppose this style of illustration, it’s just not my personal preference. However, this version of Five Little Pumpkins came free with Bethany’s book order, and she loved it. Part of its appeal is its size; it’s smaller than your average book, and toddlers can hold it easily. The text is the traditional ‘Five Little Pumpkins’ poem, but the illustrations do make it a little more modern. It comes in a board book version, but we’ve only used the paperback. Dan Yaccarino – you hit a home run with this one.

One Spooky Night

One Spooky Night, by Kate Stone, combines some vintage illustration appeal with modern technology to make a gorgeous book. Each spread is divided by a translucent overlay with some laser-cut elements. It’s very different than most children’s books, and helps lend a spooky air to the experience of reading it. The story of a little trick-or-treater dressed as a monster is simple: he sees a lot of potentially scary things on his way to a Halloween party, but he knows these things aren’t real. I rather like the lesson, which is along the lines of “you know it’s pretend, so don’t be scared,” but it isn’t overbearing.

Ghosts in the House

And now to the girls’ current favorite: Ghosts in the House!, by Kazuno Kohara. This book really appeals to my love of vintage Halloween everything. The colors you see on the cover are the only ones used in the entire book, and the sweet characters of the young witch, the cat, and the ghosts are not at all frightening. The witch moves into a new house, catches the ghosts, and uses them throughout her new home as curtains, blankets, and a tablecloth. The text is simple and memorable. This is definitely a book that Bethany “reads” to herself, because the story is straightforward and the language is accessible. If you’re looking for a selection to start a Halloween collection for your family, this would be my pick.

{Disclosure: Compensated affiliate links used for each book.}

Thanks so much for reading along with us this month! Click on the picture below to find more suggestions for great books.

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31 Days: Halloween Favorites

As promised, today’s selections include some Halloween favorites. These are classic stories my mother read to me, and now I love sharing them with my girls.

Humbug Witch

I was really excited to learn that this is still in print! This is, without a doubt, my favorite Halloween book. Written and illustrated by Lorna Balian, Humbug Witch tells about a little witch who has some trouble functioning as a witch should. She certainly looks the part – check out that cover – but she just can’t get her spells to work. The ending has a fun surprise that I won’t share here, but is delightful to little children. My mother used to come and read this to my second grade classes, and once the kids got over the shock that I had a mother, they would sit enraptured while she read the story. It’s engaging for older kiddos, but sweet enough for younger ones, too.

It's Halloween

Children’s poetry and Jack Prelutsky are pretty much synonymous. His work is rich in language, but simple enough in concept that it’s accessible to beginning readers and listeners. Plus, his real-life topics give kids an instant connection to his work. I particularly love his holiday collections, this one, It’s Halloween, illustrated by Marylin Hafner, doesn’t disappoint. A couple of the poems discuss things that are a bit much for my sensitive three year old, but since it’s an anthology of sorts, it’s easy to skip those poems and move on to others that are more appropriate. Read this to a 2nd or 3rd grade class, and they’ll have some of these memorized before you know it!

Woggle of Witches

Unfortunately, A Woggle of Witches, by Adrienne Adams, does seem to be out of print. Check your libraries, though, because it’s worth a little bit of effort. (I would say, however, that it’s not worth the $50+ that some people on Amazon want to charge you for it!) This one turns the tables a bit, because the witches in this story are scared by other creatures that they see on Halloween. The green and black illustrations convey a spooky mood without gore or unnecessary fear, and it’s a great book to start discussions about how imaginary things are just that – imaginary. Adrienne Adams’ books are all delightful, in my opinion, and she has a way of addressing children without talking down to them in the way she tells her stories.

{Compensated affiliate links used for some of the titles above.}

Check back tomorrow, when I’ll be sharing a few of our favorite Halloween books from recent years. Until then, click on the picture below to see what else we’ve been reading this month!

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31 Days: The Middle-Sized Bear

Clara (who will be two on Tuesday) really loves The Three Bears. Unlike her older sister, she’s never been one to be frightened by stories, so even the ‘scary’ parts are interesting to her. Earlier this week, she kept asking for something that sounded like “medium-sized” at bedtime, and it took me a bit to figure out what she meant: she wanted me to read to her about the “medium-sized” bear. Instead, I read her the whole story, and it made me realize that maybe some other toddlers would enjoy hearing about our favorite versions of the story.

The Three Bears

This is the version we read most frequently. It’s Rob Hefferson’s new illustrations of the fairly classic Little Golden Books text. None of the illustrations is frightening, and the text doesn’t moralize unnecessarily. (I’m a firm believer that showing, rather than telling, goes a long way in imparting morals to kids.) The illustrations are charming, but timeless. You don’t get the sense that this is something that happens in your neighborhood, but it also doesn’t look like something that took place three hundred years ago. I highly recommend this version for the toddler/preschool crowd.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Jim Aylesworth and Barbara McClintock’s version is actually Bethany’s favorite. It’s a fair bit more flowery and Victorian in style, but it also gives a lot more details about what goes on during the course of the story. Aylesworth provides a great deal of backstory for Goldilocks, explaining why she was in the woods in the first place, and why she would end up in this precarious situation. There is a heavy dose of “listen to your mother,” but it doesn’t seem out of place in the overall flow of the story. This is definitely a more in-depth retelling, and is better suited to slightly older preschoolers/Kindergarteners and up. (The back cover shares a recipe for porridge cookies, which appear to be oatmeal cookies in disguise.)

The Three Bears (Galdone)

And, of course, we can’t leave out Paul Galdone – master reteller of traditional tales. To me, this is the version most likely to cause some upset in sensitive children, so this would be a version I’d recommend for children of school age and up. However, if you’re a teacher looking to study fairy tales as a genre, this is a great choice! Galdone’s unique voice shines in this story without disturbing the traditional elements of the tale. If you’re only interested in one version of this story, I would tell you to choose this one, because it encompasses the oral storytelling tradition that has made these stories timeless.

31 Days: All in a day’s work

Bread baking went MUCH better today. Granted, it had nowhere to go but up after yesterday’s excitement. Here’s the recipe we used: Cheesy Batter Bread. It’s a great recipe that doesn’t require a lot of special bread-baking talent, though it does have to rise twice. It is delicious enough to make the work worth it. Pictures and taste test results tomorrow!

Today’s book, Seven Loaves of Bread, by Ferida Wolff, also involves bread that is worth the work it takes to make it. Unfortunately, one of the main characters, Rose, fails to realize this until it is too late. Rose’s sister, Milly, usually makes the bread for their family, the menagerie of animals on their farm, a neighbor, and the peddler. When Milly gets sick, Rose takes over the bread-baking duties, and uses a lot of shortcuts. Slowly, these shortcuts result in less bread, and thus, chaos on the farm. Not surprisingly, Rose sees the error of her ways just in the nick of time, and manages to correct her lazy mistakes and gain some perspective in the process.

Seven Loaves of Bread

The vintage illustrations by Katie Keller fit the mood of the story, and make it more believable. There’s definitely some suspension of disbelief here, especially when it comes to Rose’s ability to put the farm back in order in a single day, but the under-eight crowd has never seemed to mind. In the classroom, this is a great book for looking at some basics of economics: types of resources (human and land, in particular), scarcity (of time), and plain old personal responsibility. People reading at home with their own little ones will find opportunities to discuss the same lessons.

If you’d like to see what else we’re reading this month, just click on the picture below.

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31 Days: Blue Bowl Down

Blue Bowl Down

When Bethany saw this image on the computer screen, she immediately started jumping up and down. “Are we getting Blue Bowl Down from the library? That’s my favorite book!” She really couldn’t contain her excitement. We found this book at the end of last school year, and we’ve probably checked it out every other week since.

Written by C. M. Millen and illustrated by Holly Meade, Blue Bowl Down uses a singsong-y rhyme to share the steps involved in making bread. The setting is Appalachia around a hundred years ago. There is a stove, but it’s wood-heated. Water comes from a well, and the baby in the story sleeps in a loft-like room in the family’s home. Millen adds an historical note at the end, which shares that the procedure behind the bread-baking comes from her own family’s history of putting the ingredients and sourdough starter in a blue bowl at night, ready to be baked fresh in the morning.

Every page is easy to repeat and easy to predict. This is absolutely the sort of story that your pre-reading little one can memorize and “read” to himself. The pictures complement the story, with historically accurate details to spark good conversation. The pump at the well, the lantern for light, and the ladder up to the baby’s bed, were all things we talked about as a family while we were reading.

Today’s post was supposed to include a bread-baking story of our own, but things did not go as planned. We made some bread, but Mommy ignored the advice about splitting it into two loaf pans, and we had an overflow situation in the oven. No picture can do it justice. Bethany said, “I don’t think we stirred it down like they said to in the book.” (We did stir it down, but it didn’t make enough of a difference, apparently.)

Instead, tomorrow I’ll share a time-tested bread recipe that is a little less authentic to the story, but also less inclined to create a mess in your oven. Don’t worry – we have another awesome bread book to go with it!

31 Days: Because sometimes we all get a little grumpy.

My younger daughter, Clara, started calling herself a goat a few months back. I can even pinpoint the instant when it hit. She started meowing for no apparent reason, so I (stupidly) asked her if she was a cat. She looked at me like I had three heads and replied, “NO! I a baby GOAT.” We made the mistake of laughing uproariously, and now she refers to herself as a goat. I’m hoping she outgrows it before college, or her roommate might be in trouble. Just in case you’re wondering, she doesn’t really look too much like a goat.Clara with an apple

She does, however, have some stubborn tendencies, so there may be just the slightest resemblance.  I am glad to report, though, that on the whole she has a delightful personality, quite unlike the main character in today’s book: Grumpy Goat, written and illustrated by Brett Helquist.

Grumpy Goat

This is one of those books that the girls grabbed from the library shelf before I really had the chance to take a look at it. When we sat down to read it, I was prepared to read it quickly, hide it in the back of the car, and return it as soon as possible. Instead, I loved it. A lot.

The story is simple and straightforward. There is a very grumpy goat who annoys and harasses all the other animals on the farm. One day, he spots a pretty flower, and sure enough, it cracks open his heart just a little bit. From there, his life turns into a much happier place, which in turn improves the life of everyone around him. The layout of the book, with sweeping farm panoramas on several of the spreads, helps carry the reader through the story. Even though the end is predictable enough, you really find yourself rooting for the goat by the end.

Since we I am prone to bouts of grumpiness, and I fear the girls have inherited the tendency, I’ve used this book to talk about how our moods can make us feel. We also discussed how one person in a family can make everyone else feel grumpy through her actions. While this is certainly not a miraculous book that cured our house of grumpiness once and for all, it has given us a bit of a touchstone for grumpy situations. “Are you a grumpy goat?” I’ll ask, and sometimes that’s enough to bring out a giggle and turn somebody’s mood around. While I haven’t used this in a classroom setting, I can only imagine it would work just as well with a class full of little baby goats.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a great laptime rhyming book and an accompanying recipe! To share more of this month’s book selections, just click on the picture below.

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