5 Modern Bedtime Stories Every Kid (and Adult) Will Love

By Alyse Borkan  |  Feb 15, 2016
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Goodnight Moon will always be a classic, but 21st century kids deserve 21st century bedtime stories. Here are five of the best:

Dream Animals: A Bedtime Journey by Emily Winfred Martin

Simple premise, lyrical prose, delightfully imaginative imagery: Dream Animals might have all the ingredients for a perfect bedtime story. Emily Winfield Martin lulls her readers to sleep with the promise that dreams will whisk them away to fantastical adventures — witness a girl riding a fox to an elven orchestra, a boy baking pastries with a bear, a pigtailed girl traveling by narwhal to the sea floor. “These creatures are the reason,” writes Martin, “Dreamers get where dreamers go. Dreamland is too far to run/And sleepy feet, too slow.”

A House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson

A Caldecott Medalist in 2011, The House in the Night was deemed a modern classic almost as soon as it was released. The story itself is barebones: a girl is given a key to a house, where a bird emerges from a magical book and flies her through the night sky. The book’s magic lies in Beth Kromme’s scratchboard and watercolor illustrations — black and white, gold and grey — which evoke an intricate dreamscape, dense with surprising details: a violin lies on the bed, a globe sits on the dresser; flowers open their petals to the starlight as clouds hang in the distance. The House in the Night is one of those rare picture books that offers equal pleasures to parents and children.

A Book About Sleep by Il Sung Na

Il Sung Na’s debut children’s book earned great acclaim for its textured illustrations, gentle coloring and soothingly spare narrative. The words, though pleasantly rhythmic, are almost unnecessary. The story is in its delicately-etched images, which follow an owl as he flies through the night and witnesses all his fellow animals sleeping. Giraffes, koalas, elephants, a whale, even penguins fall under his tired gaze until — spoiler alert — he, too, gets his turn to fall asleep just as the sun rises.

Little Owl’s Night by Divya Srinivasan

A bit of an alternate take on A Book of Sleep, Divya Srinavasan’s story focuses not on sleeping animals but those who stay awake: a family of opossums waddling through the woods, a badger burgling fish from a sleeping bear, frogs and crickets singing in the moonlight. The illustrations are crisper and more cartoonish, with graceful prose that pops up to say only what the pictures cannot.

The Night World by Mordicai Gerstein

It’s the oldest story: boy wants to sleep, cat wants to hit the town. The cat wins out in author-illustrator (and Caldecott Medalist) Mordicai Gerstiein’s artful tribute to the nocturnal. With spare text and surreal imagery, Gerstein takes his boy and cat through a shadowy realm that gradually grows brighter and brighter, revealing dazzling color as dawn approaches. A great story for children wary of darkness — although you might want to remind your kids not to imitate the protagonists.

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