It’s the golden, subliminal secret of picture books: how so many of the best ingeniously end with little bunnies, bears, babies, boys, girls, trucks, and other protagonists fast asleep! They say, Pssst, my sweet little listener, take a hint here!
When your goal is to get your child to fall asleep, reach for one of these seven books, employing the power of suggestion:
By Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin
This word-of-mouth hit, originally a Swedish sensation, was just published here in October (2015). Be forewarned that it’s not much fun to look at (homely pictures) or fun to read (it’s really looooong). But its author, a behavioral scientist, uses relaxation techniques to fulfill the promise on the cover: “I can make anyone fall asleep!” Many desperate parents swear by it.
By Crockett Johnson
You’d never know that winsome Harold is 60 this year (and publisher Harper-Collins is celebrating by releasing all seven “Harold” books—like Harold’s Trip to the Sky and Harold’s ABC—for the first time in a while). The magic here is watching the boy draw his way into and out of adventures. As kids get older, they love understanding the double meaning of what might be the best bedtime-story ending of all time: “And then Harold made his bed. He got in it and he drew up the covers. The purple crayon dropped on the floor. And Harold dropped off to sleep.”
By Mary Logue
What’s great about this Caldecott Honor Book is the calm, matter-of-fact way the parents handle their little girl who insists, over and over, that she isn’t sleepy. (“They nodded their heads and said she didn’t have to go to sleep. But she had to put her pajamas on.”) They tell her about the different ways animals sleep until she finds one that inspired her—the tiger, who sleeps to stay strong. Bonus for you: award-winning artist Pamela Zagarenski’s detailed and dreamy mixed-media images of the magical kingdom where they all live (and, eventually, sleep).
By Sherri Duskey Rinker
Even Cement Mixer, Dump Truck, Excavator, and Bulldozer have to go to sleep. They might be just the role models for a kid who wants to play with them or watch them all day.
By Dr. Seuss
Parents have a love-dread relationship with this classic. You’ll love it if you and your child are predisposed to Seuss’s whimsical characters and his trademark fun-to-read (or listen to) wordplay. You’ll dread it on the nights you’re tired because it’s a long one. But there are lots and lots of suggestive yawns!
By Mem Fox
A whole menagerie of animal babies nod off next to their mommies in Jane Dyer’s beautiful illustrations. And Fox’s repetitive rhyme is just as soothing on the ears. The near-seamless blend of somnolence probably explains the enduring appeal of this new classic.
By Margaret Wise Brown
Well, you knew this one. The grey bunny in the blue-and-white striped pajamas is the original Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep. Goodnight nobody, goodnight mush…what sleep-suggestion list could possibly be complete without it?