Top 5: Bedtime Books for Toddlers

At bedtime the little ones are always restless and one way to calm everyone down is a real bedtime book… a book about bedtime, and sleep, and yawning, and… oh, pardon me, I nodded off there for a moment.

Here are five rather excellent and beautiful bedtime stories that you may not know about. (Note: No Goodnight Moon on this list – everyone knows about that one already!) Click on titles for full reviews.

1. Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes – infant+

Simple and funny. Kitten thinks the moon is a bowl of milk.

2. Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear? by Martin Waddell – age 2+

All about getting settled for sleep, starring a very patient parent.

3. The Baby Who Wouldn’t Go to Bed by Helen Cooper – age 2+

Baby wants to keep playing but his toys are sleepy.

4. One Snowy Night by Nick Butterworth – age 3+

Very funny. All the animals in the park are looking for a warm place to sleep, so they descend on the park-keeper’s little house.

5. The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson – age 3+

Dreamy and gorgeous. A girl imagines she is flying over the countryside at night, all the way to the planets and stars.

And, what the heck, here’s a bonus, one I haven’t reviewed on this blog but that we’ve read and listened to countless times:

Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book by Dr. Seuss – age 2+

A chronicle of all manner of creatures going to bed – yawners, sleepwalkers, sleeptalkers, snorers and dreamers. It’s a little long, but brilliant in its pacing, gradually slowing and mellowing until the final “Good night.” We have a fantastic CD version of it which we’d listen to while following along in the book. The narration, music and fx are terrific and the sound of all those yawns will definitely get you and your toddler yawning too. (Here’s the link to the CD on amazon.)


The Whales’ Song


The Whales’ Song

Dyan Sheldon, text

Gary Blythe, illustrations

Hutchinson Children’s Books, 1990

24 pp.

Age: 3 +

Interests: whales, ocean, grandparents, animals, nature


Hiawatha’s Childhood


Hiawatha’s Childhood

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Errol Le Cain, illustrations

Faber and Faber, 1984

30 pp.

Age: 3

Interests: poetry, nature, First Nations, birds, animals

Also by this illustrator: The Cabbage Princess, Thorn Rose, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Snow Queen, The Enchanter’s Daughter, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, and many others


A Sick Day for Amos McGee


A Sick Day for Amos McGee

Philip C. Stead, text

Erin E. Stead, illustrations

Roaring Brook Press, 2010

32 pp.

Age: 3+

Interests: animals, zoo, zookeepers, being sick, friends

Also by this illustrator: And Then It’s Spring


The House in the Night


The House in the Night

Susan Marie Swanson, text

Beth Krommes, illustrations

Houghton Mifflin, 2008

36 pp.

Age: 3+

Interests: night, bedtime, night sky, sun and moon

Other books by this illustrator: The Lamp, the Ice, and the Boat Called Fish; Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow, The Hidden Folk


Joseph Had a Little Overcoat


Joseph Had a Little Overcoat

by Simms Taback

Viking, 1999

34 pp.

Age: 3+

Interests: folksongs, Jewish folktales/folksongs, sewing, recycling/repurposing

Also by this author: There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, This is the House that Jack Built


Where the Wild Things Are


Where the Wild Things Are

by Maurice Sendak

Harper Collins, 1963

40 pp.

Age: 3+

Interests: monsters, bad behavior, adventure, travel, boats

Also by this author: Outside Over There, In the Night Kitchen, Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life

Note: The 2009 movie Where the Wild Things Are is quite brilliant but is not aimed at the same preschool audience as the book! Moving, complex, gorgeous and frightening – definitely more for grownups than youngsters.


A Story A Story


A Story A Story

an African Tale retold and illustrated by Gail E. Haley

Atheneum, 1970

32 pp.

Age: 3+

Interests: folktales, Africa, animals, gods

Also by this author/illustrator: The Post Office Cat


Books That Teach Manners

Now that we’re back to school and trying to get everyone back ‘with the program’, you might find this link interesting – Commonsense Media list of books that teach manners.

I would add another book we liked..

Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You Book – Richard Scarry; Random House, 1973

suitable for age 3 and up

In inimitable Scarry style, a primer on thoughtful behaviour, comportment at parties, being helpful, etc. Surprisingly comprehensive and only a wee bit preachy. Starring all your favourite Scarry characters. When my daughter was obsessed particularly interested in tea parties/birthday parties/etc., she quite enjoyed the short stories in this book.

Making the Moose Out of Life

BLUE SPRUCE nominee – 2012

Making the Moose Out of Life

by Nicholas Oldland

Kids Can Press, 2010

30 pp.

Age: 3+

Interests: animals, moose, adventure, boats, islands, travel, trying new things, survival skills

Also by this author: The Busy Beaver, Big Bear Hug


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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.