Children’s Bedtime Books I Love.

Occasionally, there is a chasm between the books mini loves and the ones I do. I tire quickly of most of the Mo Willems books, for example, though mini could listen to Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus ad infinitum. (As a side bar, I’m not a huge fan of some of the messages in his books.) Even clever books with interesting rhymes — ones like Pout Pout Fish and Little Blue Truck (both definitely worth owning!) — can occasionally fill me with dread. Both of them run about two or three stanzas too long for my taste, and, if mini weren’t so observant, I’d happily skip a section or two — but she will inevitably point out my “forgetfulness.” Below, I thought I’d share the handful of children’s books I reach for time after time when mini permits me to select a book for our bedtime routine. Note — importantly — that all of these books are great for little children; none last more than a few minutes and most are heavily illustrated. (Who else has tried to read a book with too much text only to have a little paw reach up to turn the page?) Also note that all of these are ideal bedtime books in that most have soothing rhythms or messages about sleep.

Nancy Knows by Cybele Young — a beautifully illustrated book (using hand-folded origami!) that creatively explains memory to children. The writing is lyrical.

The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton — when I misplaced this book, I ordered a replacement copy within hours. This book is blessedly short, covers the basics of bedtime routine, and somehow puts me right to sleep with its closing line: “Rock and rock and rock to sleep…”

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans — a classic, for a reason. Mini knows this book so well that when I skip a word and look at her expectantly, she fills in the blank. We both love the line about saying pooh-pooh to the tigers at the zoo.

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld — I love how this book explains grappling with emotions and empathy.

All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon — soothing rhymes, beautiful illustrations, and an interesting approach to explaining the vastness and diversity of the world.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Absolutely love the imaginativeness of this book. Mini and I dance and sing together during the multi-page “rumpus” interlude, where there is no text. Plus, the message at the end! It’s a beautiful book in all ways.

Jamberry by Bruce Degen. No substantial message here, but the rhythm is catchy and mini loves the illustrations (and also loves berries, so this is a big hit).

Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? by Nancy White Carlstrom. This book is quiet, soothing poetry that helpfully paints the picture of the cycle of a day. I love the ending, as Jesse Bear lays in bed: “What will you wear at night? / Sleep in my eyes / And stars in the skies / Moon on my bed / And dreams in my head / That’s what I’ll wear tonight.”

The Sleepy Alphabet Book by Judy Sierra.

Goodnight, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. Something about the words “hush” and “mush” puts me right to sleep. My mother used to read this book to me a lot; I absolutely adore it and its epic illustrations.

When I’m feeling a bit more ambitious, we also both love Drum Dream Girl (incredible illustrations and beautiful writing) and Rosie Revere, Engineer — both books with strong messages of female empowerment, and both slightly longer than the others listed above.

What are your favorite bedtime books for toddlers? Please share in the comments! Always looking for new additions.

Post Scripts.

+Absolutely DYING (!!!) over this rug. I think it needs to go into micro’s nursery.

+Speaking of micro’s nursery — dream of wallpapering it with this.

+My favorite pajama brands for little ones.

+Update: added some new lunchtime finds to my Amazon shopping cart for mini’s school lunch situation after ordering this: slim icepacks, a Thermos for warm items, these sandwich-sized tupperware, a new Camelbak, and a snack-sized Yumbox after so many of you advocated for this brand.

+More great book picks for minis here.

+More great discounted Polarn O. Pyret finds on Amazon: this dress for mini and these everyday pants for micro.

+PSA: RealReal is a great source for buying gently-used Burberry coats for children. Have scored a few barely-worn pieces for mini from there!

+There are still some fantastic sale scores to be found.

+Love (!) this pretty pleated skirt.

+My nightly affirmations for mini.

+Cute fall bow for mini.

+These schoolbus leggings!

16 Comments

  1. Hi Jen,

    My cousin had a baby boy in December, and I immediately bookmarked your sister’s “Raising a Minimagpie Bookworm” post for ideas for board books to get for Mother’s Day/whenever I see the two of them. Why is picking out board books such a fun way to spend a weekend afternoon?? I got her the Going to Bed Book and Dear Zoo from that post, and I second a commenter’s love of Goodnight Gorilla. I also remember my mother reading Harry the Dirty Dog when I was little, which is a fun book for littles with dogs. I also enjoy the BabyLit series, which are admittedly probably more entertaining for adults than kids lol.

    1. Yay – I am so glad that post was helpful and THANK YOU for the incredible suggestions here! Love Harry the Dirty Dog — added that to my cart for mini! xx

  2. Thank you! Bought three of these recs to add to our library. We also love “You Are My Happy” by Hoda Kotb. It was an unexpected find from my mother in law! It actually makes me think of your posts on “slices of joy”—it prompts (brief bedtime) reflection on the things that bring joy every day!

  3. Touch the Brightest Star and The Quiet Book are both wonderful for older toddlers at bedtime (my one-year-old is still a little young) – Touch the Brightest Star is, in particular, my favorite. How do Dinosaurs Love Their Dogs is also great, and quite short; I completely agree about Little Blue Truck and Pout Pout Fish (and Giraffes Don’t Dance, for that matter) being a few stanzas too long!

    I also love The Going to Bed Book, but I have to say: who exercises after getting ready for bed?!

    1. HAHA Annie. I can’t tell you how often Mr. Magpie and I make similar snarky comments about the children’s books we read — and we’re always saying things like, “I know I’m reading way too much into this, but isn’t the guy from Caps for Sale kind of a jerk?!” HA. Thanks for the recs!

  4. We love the “Hello [location]” books by Martha Day Zschock. “Hello Cape Cod” was our first, and now I try to get them for every major city/location we’ve been to. The rhyme is good, the books aren’t too long, and it also serves as a nice starting point to reminisce (well, as best as the baby can) about places we’ve been together.

  5. We absolutely LOVE All The World too! The text is so beautiful, lyrical, and soothing. Something about the scenery in the illustrations reminds me so much of the landscape in California (where we currently live). Goodnight Moon was the very first bedtime book we read to her when when she was a newborn and she still reaches for it as a toddler.
    We also enjoy Goodnight Gorilla, which doesn’t have much text and leaves things open-ended for us to talk about and imagine with her. We find it quite funny! A few other titles we like: If Animals Kissed Good Night, If Animals Said I Love You, and Karen Katz’s Mommy Hugs, Daddy Hugs, and Counting Kisses.

    Re: Rosie Revere, Engineer – you probably already know or have it but there’s one about an architect and scientist too!

    I echo the comment about Aaron Becker! His book “You Are Light” is so beautifully made too, and it’s my go-to gift for little ones.

  6. The Journey series (Journey, Quest, and Return) are fantastically illustrated WORDLESS books by Aaron Becker. We narrate them ourselves with what the characters might be thinking and saying. They are absolutely worth owning.

    1. COOL. I love this! I feel like this would be right up mini’s alley. I’ve noticed she often attends to characters that are “out of frame” in some books — like the “background” animals in “Room on the Broom” and side characters (birds, squirrels) in various stories. I feel like she’d love the opportunity to narrate something herself. xx

  7. This is a great list! I second All the World, and would add Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers. (Her newest book, Hooray for Babies!, is also great, but maybe a little exuberant for bedtime.)

    Related: A good resource for children’s books for all ages is The Enchanted Hour, by Meghan Cox Gurdon. She is the WSJ’s children’s book critic, and she advocates reading aloud together no matter how old your child is. The book has a great index of her recommended children’s books.

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