Top 10 Best Bedtime Stories

A good story is a good story.  And a good story is always a good choice for bedtime.  But some books are specifically about bedtime, sleep or goodnight rituals and are particularly dear to have on hand for toddler sets.  What makes a good bedtime book?  Excellent art.  A slow pace.  A lyrical cadence.  Or all of the above. Many of the titles below embody all of those qualities...  here is my personal Top 10 Goodnight/Sleep/Bedtime storybooks:

 A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na. Relatively new on the bedtime scene, this book is an instant classic. The illustrations are sublime. Period.

 Time for Bed by Mem Fox. This was the first, full price picture book I think I ever bought. And I bought it, interestingly for one of the same reasons that one reviewer on Amazon poo-poohed it: it's size. You can get this as a board book and a smaller paperback, but I bought the large book edition. I loved the idea of having such large, lovely illustrations totally fill in a child's line of vision before bedtime. Now, it's not so big as to be awkward and unwieldy... it's just a nice, jumbo size book. Many sleep books aren't.

 Sailor Song by Nancy Jewell. I chose this for pure nostalgia's sake. I read it often to my firstborn when his papa was overseas; it is a homecoming bedtime tale. Sweet and soft. The illustrations are done by Stefano Vitale, whose work I admire very much.

 Night Knight by Davey Owen. Just found and discovered and loved a few weeks ago. You can read more about that here.

 It's Time to Sleep, My Love by Eric Metaxes. The rhyming on this is very much like Time for Bed. The artwork is surreal. There are elements of it that appear strange or eerie in a lovely, only-half-awake kind of way; my three year old daughter loves this one.

When the Wind Stops by Charlotte Zolotow.  "And where do clouds go when they move across the sky?"  "To make shade somewhere else."  So goes this classic, gorgeous question and answer discussion between a young lad and his mother.  Stefano Vitale is featured again here in exquisite form. So it may or may not be a "must read" but if you do read it, When the Wind Stops is definitely a "must love."

 Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Berger. The small pearl becomes the moon. A few, well placed words. I love Barbara Berger... and she does not disappoint with this one.

 A Mouse Told His Mother by Bethany Roberts. Excellent bedtime banter here not too unlike Runaway Bunny. The art is detailed and wonderful and as it should, the adventures end with young mouse falling asleep.

 If You're Afraid of the Dark Remember the Night Rainbow by Cooper Edens. Perfect for children and teens and adults; this book was given to me on my 15th birthday and I treasure it's strange, lovely quirkiness still.

 Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. Did you really think I'd forget this? As one of the bestselling children's books of all time, even non-discerning parents often have this on their shelves. Their seems to be an unspoken code that this is a mandatory title. I held out for a long time just because things this popular spark the 'go against the grain rebel' in me.  But eventually, I caved and like so many others, can recite it practically by heart now.  That makes me happy.

“Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving.” 
-Madeleine L'Engle

Raising Discerning Souls

It was one of those beautiful, mothering moments when you are just so exquisitely happy and relieved that something you've tried to model and teach by example... has stuck:

My nine year old rifling through the bin of books to collect his prize for the library summer reading program-- Mom holding her breath, as she does every year waiting to veto a Goosebumps title or to simply roll her eyes at the twaddle-rific Star Wars books. (These types are always plentiful in giveaway programs.) So he finally makes his selection and brings it to me: 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

"Nothing else looked very good," he states casually.

Mother bursts with pride... for we have no time to waste with the mediocre.

An Education in Pictures

As it's not in the scope of this blog to discuss homeschooling philosophies, I wanted to give just a glimpse at our upcoming year in a picture.  Our education is based on good, living books, and that's largely what you see here.  I'm showing you a picture of our spine, not the myriad of supplemental picture and chapter books, copybooks or online resources that reinforce all that we are learning (especially with art, science, music, history, religion and poetry). Plus there's a lot of overlap between these years as we'll be doing much of this reading together.  I also haven't put in the math for my 4th grader yet; can't seem to win any auctions on e-bay for Teaching Textbooks 5!  As it is, while I love designing curriculum, I am becoming more and more of a Charlotte Mason purist. This is mostly for two reasons: when the rubber meets the road, you have to abandon your glorious ideals on a pedestal and do what works for your own family; also, the methods of a true Charlotte Mason education are incompatible with having a diverse plan of attack (e.g. There's no sense in insisting on copywork if you are also forcing the child to do spelling sheets, handwriting workbooks and grammar lessons too.)  So while homeschoolers can certainly have a "Charlotte Mason flavor" to their curriculum... I sort of feel like the "atmosphere, discipline and life" is an all or nothing approach, at least for our purposes. So, just for novelty's sake I present parts of the 2012/2013 year (beginning in August!) for my boys:


3rd Grade:

4th Grade:

“Thought breeds thought; children familiar with great thoughts take as naturally to thinking for themselves as the well-nourished body takes to growing; and we must bear in mind that growth, physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, is the sole end of education.” 
-Charlotte Mason 

Night Knight: Pick of the Week

Here is a fresh bedtime story!  Released in the US just this year, Night Knight(not to be confused with the fun little homonym book: Night, Knight is an excellent end-of-the-day ritual book. There are few words... but it is the artwork  that is truly memorable.  The limited palette is so rich to look at; I was surprised that this was done entirely with digital media. It reminds me just a tad of some of Maurice Sendak's work.  One reviewer hit it spot on: you could essentially buy the book just to cut up (*gasp*) for the artwork to hang in a young lad's room... it's that good.  Anyway, this was one of those welcome surprise grabs from the library and my five year old son and I had a good time exploring some of the pictures.  I am eager now to check out author/illustrator Owen Davey's original, wordless story: Foxly's Feast.

Two Free Audiobooks! has a free 30 day trial offer for new customers!  You get to download two free books (and listen to them on your computer, iPhone, iPad, mp3 player, or burn to CD) for free!  If you have no intention of continuing your membership through the website, you can cancel anytime before the 30 days are over; obviously you get to keep the downloaded material too.

I have just taken advantage of this.  I wouldn't recommend using your credits for picture books of course... but for those longer stories that you can't seem to find time for reading.  This is an excellent opportunity to get ready for any summer road tripping you might do!  We are planning on listening to a book that my husband really wanted to read to his sons, but couldn't seem to find the time or energy after a long day at his physically demanding job.  So it's the perfect thing to listen to in the car as a family: Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers.

Our second free book was agony to choose; I mean you can get the ENTIRE Beatrix Potter collection for free!  There are so many good ones out there.  For me, it was a toss up between Swallows and Amazons, The Paddington Bear Collection, Just So Stories, The Princess and Curdie, Redwall, or the sorely tempting Thomas Sowell books.  (Those however, aren't particularly family oriented so I thought it better to aim for road-reading... err... listening).  Just So Stories won!  It'll be nice to hear the narrator do the animal noises much better than I could anyway...

So take advantage of this excellent offer!  The great part is that as you are canceling your membership, they offer you deep discounts to stay active.  I think the $7.50/month (one free book a month) for three months is an excellent deal... but ultimately, I just milked the system and got my free books and cancelled.  But if you can afford it and can't seem to make time for longer reading with the kids... it would be a great program to subscribe to. Let me know which books YOU got for free!

Andrew Henry's Meadow: Reissued

I've said dozens of times that asking a book lover to choose a favorite book is tantamount to asking a mother to choose a favorite child.  There is however one particular author/illustrator of whom I am especially fond.  If there was a forced admission of my Top Five children's books of all times, two of her titles would be in that list.  This is Doris Burn.  She illustrated a book very dear to me (which incidentally was republished in 1999 with inferior artwork and a reduced family size) which sent me on a search for other Doris Burn titles (I am so excited that The Summerfolk will be showing up in the mail soon too!!!).  She is most famous for Andrew Henry's Meadow.  

Until yesterday, that book was out of print, selling on the used market for $35 or more. But thank heavens publishers have some sense and aren't committed to just churning out "newer, better" books all the time.  Andrew Henry's Meadow has delighted young and old alike for several generations.  And now, you can purchase it for the bargain price of $11 at amazon.  It's worth every penny.  Best of all, the publishers didn't mess with the story at all.  There are still five children in the family.  The only discernible difference is the childish font they used for the front cover (I'm not a fan.) and the size of the book overall is slightly reformatted.  While the story takes place in the springtime, it makes for fine summer reading as well.  Now, there is a movie being made based on this book (I am both frightened and excited to see what Hollywood will do to this) and I'm sure that's why it's back in print, but we still can voice our appreciation in one major way: go purchase this book!  Our dollars speak and publishers hear the almighty dollar.  If we buy mediocre garbage, they're happy to continue publishing it.  If we buy excellent, innovative books, they'll publish them.  The book makes for excellent gift giving to any middle child you know, any creative child you know, any 7-12 year old boy you know, or any child at all really.  It is a standout picture book.  Thank you Philomel Books for reissuing one of the great titles in children's literature... may there be many more to come!

Cowboy up!

We're going to a rodeo tomorrow!  Along with beaches, baseball, camping and fairs, rodeos are one of those lovely summer themes that I chose not to get specific on when I made my Top Ten Summer List. There's just too many great summery books out there.  Still, to get y'all into the mood, here are a few great cowboy related picture books:

 Armadillo Rodeo by Jan Brett

Cowboy Small by Lois Lenski
White Dynamite and Curly Kidd by Bill Martin Jr.

Buffalo Bill by D'Aulaire
The Brave Cowboy by Joan Walsh Anglund

Why Cowboys Sleep With Their Boots On by Laurie Knowlton


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