Open Sesame: 4 Summer Bedtime Stories

Open Sesame: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

Summer Bedtime Stories: Four New Picture Books Teeming with Animals

Summer nights come alive with the sounds of nocturnal creatures, with shadows moving through the dark, with the scent of night-blooming flowers and the pungent perfume of skunks.  It is the season to spy fireflies in the dewy meadow and Luna moths under the porch light, to be surprised by rabbits and frogs and deer that leap across the road in front of car headlights, and to search for the glint of eyes in the beam of flashlights. In these four new picture books, readers will find pages teeming with animals at night. Some are trying to fall asleep at the end of the day, while others are waking up to explore the nighttime world. Some are humorously portrayed, while others appear in their natural habitat. If you’re looking for a new story to read to your child at bedtime, especially a child who loves animals, try tucking in with one of these. 

Sheep Go To Sleep is the eighth book in the infamous sheep stories, which started with Sheep In A Jeep back in 1986 (a longtime family favorite!), by the writer/illustrator team of Nancy Shaw and Margot Apple.  In their new adventure, the sheep are faced with the difficult act of falling asleep. All the night sounds, of animals rustling in the dark and crickets chirping, are keeping them awake and restless. But a reassuring sheep dog knows just what to do. With the help of a few hugs, drinks, and a cozy quilt, these sheep finally settle down in their warm bed of hay. Using the same successful format as the other sheep stories, including simple rhyming text and soft, colored-pencil illustration, this new picture book is a sweet addition to the bedside table, sure to soothe sleepy little lambs.

  • Sheep Go To Sleep written By Nancy Shaw and illustrated by Margot Apple. Published by HMH Books For Young Readers, 2015. 32 Pgs. ISBN: 978-0544309890

In Night Animals, by Gianna Marino, it’s possum that hears it first – the sounds of night animals. Possum imagines fearsome creatures lurking in the dark and spreads the fear to skunk and then to a wolf and even a bear. Slapstick humor ensues as each animal reacts to the threat of even more terrifying animals. A bat tells them what the reader knew all along – they are the night animals. Bat’s proclamation sets the animals at ease, until they run into a group of campers. Short, funny dialogue and striking illustration, which portrays fantastic animal characters in contrast to a black background, make this a bedtime comedic hit. Readers will be hooked just looking at the cover, which shows possum caught in the light and seeming a bit unsure. Factual information about the animals is included for readers who want to know more. A comforting bedtime story, especially for kids who, like possum, are a bit unsure of the dark.

  •  Night Animals by Gianna Marino, published by Viking Books for Young Readers, 2015. 40 pages ISBN: 978-0451469540

Everyone Sleeps But Not Fred by Josh Schneider is a humorous picture book based on the notion that every creature needs to sleep. And in this animal populated book, monkeys, birds, even whales are getting ready for bed. But one little boy just keeps going. Fred’s imagination is fueled with things he must do before sleep – break the world record for shouting, practice karate, tests his horns, even look for Bigfoot. His antics are not just keeping him awake, but all of the animals too. Eventually even Fred succumbs to the need for sleep. When he disappears from the scene, readers find him slumbering on a comfy, fluffy sheep. Dead-pan humor, quirky word-play, and zanily detailed illustrations provide a bedtime parody that will give kids that last needed giggle before bed.

  • Everyone Sleeps But Not Fred by Josh Schneider. Published by Clarion Books, 2015. 32 pages. ISBN:  978-0544339248

Daylight Starlight Wildlife, by Wendell Minor, is the new picture book from one of America’s best wildlife and landscape painters. Full-color, lush, realistic paintings portray 22 creatures from rabbits and hawks to owls and bobcats, introducing each one as diurnal or nocturnal. From dawn to dusk and back again, Minor’s stunning animals cross the pages of this spectacularly illustrated book. Peaceful scenes show animals depicted in their natural habitat, and baby animals appear with their mothers on most pages, adding a tender tone throughout. Simple, lyrical text shares basic traits of each creature, while fun facts at the end provide a bit more information. This book of contrasts and comparisons, with detailed, luminous art, will inspire a new generation of naturalists and animal observers. A beautifully rendered book, ideal for bedtime or storytime.

  • Daylight Starlight Wildlife by Wendell Minor. Published by Nancy Paulsen Books, 2015. 32 pages. ISBN: 978-0399246623


Cheli Mennella

Cheli has been involved with creative arts and education for most of her life, and has taught many subjects from art and books to yoga and zoology. But she has a special fondness for kid’s books, and has worked in the field for more than 20 years. She is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Valley Kids and teaches a course for adults in “Writing for Children.” She writes from Colrain, where she lives with her musician-husband, three children, and shelves full of kid’s books.

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