I'm preparing for a pajama story time program in May, so I am all about the bedtime stories right now. While there are any number of lovely and calming bedtime theme books (including my beloved Time for Bed by Mem Fox), I'm not really in the market for soft and soothing. I'm expecting the kids and parents to hang out for an hour and do a craft in addition to the stories, so I need something that's sleepy-time themed, but not sleepy-time inducing. Luckily, for every soft and sweet bedtime story out there, there's a wacky and wild story perfect for the story time crowd.
What! Cried Granny is at the top of my wild and wacky bedtime story books. Patrick and his Granny are super excited for his big sleepover, but Granny's not exactly prepared. For one thing...there's no bed for Patrick. Or pillow. Or anything else necessary for a decent night's sleep. Good thing Granny is super resourceful and creative (even if she and Patrick stay up all night preparing for bedtime). Preschoolers and kindergarten students (and young elementary school children) will think this is hilarious; toddlers don't quite get it (I've tried--they just look at me, baffled), so consider your audience accordingly.
On the other hand, The Bunnies Are Not in Their Beds has been one of my toddler story time staples ever since it was published in 2007. I've never had it not be a hit; in fact, one story time mother told me that she checked out the book so much for her toddler son (after he heard it in story time) that she bought a copy for their home library. These rambunctious bunnies are supposed to be sleeping, but they're too busy playing trains, playing parade, etc to settle down. Mom and Dad are patient and firm at first, but the patience lessens and the firmness increases as the story progresses. This is a great read aloud, although groups will miss out on the little jokes included in the illustrations.
When you're a children's librarian, you're always asked for recommendations, even if you're officially "off duty." I've been asked about library programs, how to get a library card, and book recommendations at the drug store, the bakery, and the fabric store, among other places (librarians who also live in the community in which they work experience this quite a bit). I chatted about YA paranormal books with a teenage cousin at my grandmother's 90th birthday party, and recommended beginning chapter books to the mother of my sister's friend (for her granddaughter) at my sister's bridal shower. While chatting with her, she reminded me that I told my sister to buy Llama Llama Red Pajama (which was new at the time) for her granddaughter's birthday, and it was a huge hit. This endearing read aloud has spawned into a very popular series; the little llama is a realistic toddler who sometimes lets his impatience and temper get the best of him. This first llama story explores nighttime fears (and also teaches that the little llama sometimes has to wait for Mama to finish what she is doing before she can come to him). Very fun to read aloud, and the "teachable moment" doesn't overwhelm the narrative.
I was introduced to Mother, Mother, I Want Another by a former colleague; if you love dramatics and using different voices for animal characters, you need to include this among your story time staples. After Mrs. Mouse tucks in her little mouse, her little son suddenly announces that he wants "another mother." Thinking that he actually wants another mother (and is surprisingly cool with this, apparently), she rushes off to find Mrs. Pig, Mrs. Donkey, and Mrs. Frog (I don't have the book in front of me, so there may be more animals), who each try to settle down young Mr. Mouse. The little mouse is quite insistent that he wants "another mother," until he finally announces that he is actually asking his mother for another kiss (thus illustrating the importance of proper punctuation and clarifying your message, but that's for another day). Story time parents/caregivers automatically go "awwww," and Little Mouse receives more kisses from all the animal mothers. Awwww, indeed.
Readers, especially those who regularly read before bedtime, will undoubtedly empathize with the poor young cat narrator of Maybe A Bear Ate It! Our (unnamed) narrator cannot find his/her book anywhere (and he was just in the middle of reading it!). "I need my book!" cries the little cat. Did a bear eat it? Did a stegosaurus stomp on it? The little cat imagines all sorts of dreadful endings to his/her book, until reader and book are happily reunited. Several pages are wordless, but this should still be a great title for a story time audience.
I am planning to read one semi-soothing bedtime story (at the end); Bedtime in the Jungle seems to hit the perfect balance. If you're familiar with the "Over in the Meadow" rhyme, you'll know the basic outline of the story; animal parents instruct their children to do an action (sleep, rest, snuggle, etc), and the children respond. It's also a sweet counting story. This is ideal for reading aloud; the text is big and bold, and the illustrations are large, not overly detailed, and expressive.
We just received the bulk of our February orders, and I'm just about to send off our March order. This is a packed publishing year! Lots of goodies. I've also made the mistake of looking at Fall 2013 catalogs, which does nothing for my patience. Many awesome-sounding books, including the first full-length biography of Muppets creator Jim Henson. When I saw that, I felt like Animal, pounding away on his drums. Aggh! Agggh! Agggh! Want! Really hope this is as fantastic as it sounds! (Huge Muppets fan here.)