The Best Bedtime Books

The best bedtime book, of course, is Behowl the Moon: An Ageless Story from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. But if you've already got Shakespeare for your tiny ones...

One bedtime reading session and two naps a day with three stories each time means nine sleepytime books to read in a day. A little variety on the shelves is good for the sanity. 

Have I read all of these in one night with a particularly wired kid? No comment.

This is a running list. Asterisks* denote family favorites. Links are Amazon affiliate/indie bookstore. Please send any suggestions to letitstand@gmail.com or @drivelanddrool. Last updated: June 2016

Goodnight Moon (Amazon/Indiebound). The queen of the night.

*The Going to Bed Book (Amazon/Indiebound). Lyrical, memorable, and blessedly short.

*Time for Bed (Amazon/Powell's). Sweet and soothing.  Various animals tell their offspring it’s bedtime.

Little Owl’s Night (Amazon/Indiebound). Little Owl takes us on a tour of the night forest.

Little Owl’s Day (Amazon/Indiebound). Little Owl wakes up early and discovers the day forest. Good for naps too with the daylight setting.

A Book of Sleep (Amazon/Powell's). Lovely watercolor illustrations and minimal text allow you to discuss the habits of the sleeping animal studies in opposites on each page.

A Book of Babies (Amazon/Powell's). Comparison of baby animal opposites, lovely art, not much text. Daylight setting: good for naps.

*Good Night, Gorilla (Amazon/Indiebound). A gorilla masterminds an escape from the zoo at bedtime. 

Harold and the Purple Crayon (Amazon/Indiebound). Harold creates the world he wants to walk through, and eventually finds his bed. Long and strewn with jokes for adults, but attractive to kids just the same. 

*Home for a Bunny (Amazon/Powell's). A bunny finds a home of his own. Soothing rhythmic text and a cuddled-up ending. Not inherently bedtime, also good for naps.

*Boy of Mine/Girl of Mine  (Amazon boy|girl/Powell's boy|girl). A singsong bedtime celebration of a toddler. LeUyen Pham’s illustrations are adorable and the text is sweet.

Ten, Nine, Eight (Amazon/Indiebound). A counting backward book about getting ready for bed in a big-girl bed.

*Twinkle, Twinkle, Small Hoku (Amazon/Indiebound). A Hawaiiana version of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star focusing on a sea voyage between islands. Goes over well sung at bedtime.

All the Awake Animals Are Almost Asleep (Amazon/Powell's). An (aggressively) alliterative trip through the sleepy animal kingdom. This is an old English form of poetry (think Sir Gawain and the Green Knight) and a fun change from constant rhyming but edit as you go.

If Animals Kissed Goodnight (Amazon/Powell's). Saccharine but a good book to settle in with, with opportunities for sound effects and motion, and no great consequence to skipping pages. Long, rhyming text.

*Stellaluna (Amazon/Indiebound). a baby fruit bat is separated from her mother and raised in a nest of birds. Text is long but easily abridged on the fly—just read the dialogue.  Not inherently bedtime, but the nocturnal bats and the calm last scene make it work.

Llama Llama Red Pajama (Amazon/Powell's). A kid favorite for sympathetic storytelling and wordplay, but handle with care; the story is basically about a little llama freaking out that his mom isn’t with him at night. 

Go to Sleep, Little Farm (Amazon/Indiebound). A girl gets ready for bed as the world outside her room prepares for night too. Rhyming text with a couple odd breaks in rhythm, but spare, pretty illustrations and some nice visual analogies between child and nature. Mother and father are present with specific duties for each.