BOOKS THAT HELP – SLEEP/ BEDTIME

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WOLVES IN HELICOPTERS (Sarah Tagholm, Paddy Donnelly)

Wolves in Helicopters (Andersen Press, 2022) invites brave young readers to enter the world of Hop’s spine-tingling nightmares. This is an original picture book about a bunny called Hop, who each night has night terrors filled with scary, hungry-eyed wolves! Hop knows they only exist in her dreams, but they seem so real. Mummy comforts her and has some good advice, but can Hop find the courage to conquer the wolves?

This picture book has a unique and clever structure. Sarah’s text and use of repetition are perfectly timed and depict Hop’s courage and the escalating peril. Paddy’s illustrations are both menacing and comforting, portraying the danger of the wolves but also the safety Hop feels with her mummy. There’s also a whisker of humour dotted throughout.

By the end of the story, Hop overcomes the darkness and takes control of the scariest of situations, but with an unexpected twist! The reader is left feeling uplifted and empowered, knowing that they can be the director of their own dreams.


I AM NOT SLEEPY AND I WILL NOT GO TO BED (Lauren Child)

Narrated by her elder brother, Charlie, this book (Orchard Books, 2015) features Lola, who is excitable, imaginative and determined not to go to bed. The story follows their hilarious discussions and the reasons she refuses, “I am not slightly sleepy at 6 or 1 or 8 and I am wide awake at 9 and not at all tired at 10, 11, 12 and I will probably still be perky at even 13 o’clock in the morning.”

Long suffering Charlie uses all manner of tactics to get Lola to bed including making pink milk for Lola and sitting three tigers at the table. The story follows the usual bedtime routine, bath, teeth cleaning, stories etc and in the end Charlie prevails, only to find there is a hippopotamus in his bed.

The book features lively, colourful, detailed and funny illustrations throughout. It’s a slightly longer text than many picture books so a great read to snuggle into before bed.

A helpful read for children who like Lola, don’t want to go to bed!

(Reviewed by Sarah Tagholm, author of WOLVES IN HELICOPTERS)


PEACE AT LAST (Jill Murphy)

A classic book, Peace At Last (Macmillan, 1980) is still on the shelves today, which is probably is enough of a recommendation. A friend bought this for our son, and it immediately became a bedtime favourite of the whole family.

The story follows the bear family who are tired and yawning and heading to bed. But poor Mr Bear is kept awake by Mrs Bears snoring, the ticking clock, the dripping tap, the hooting owl etc – utterly relatable – as are the growing bags under his eyes!  He moves all around the house and garden, illustrated with beautiful and gentle nighttime scenes, trying to find a place to sleep but to no avail. He finally gets back into his now quiet bed next to Mrs Bear and closes his eyes, “Peace at last” he says to himself as the alarm goes off and the family wake up.

As in all Jill Murphy stories, Peace At Last is a perfect mix of warmth and humour, gentle illustrations with a bedtime theme, a wonderful book to help children find calm before bedtime.

(Reviewed by Sarah Tagholm, author of WOLVES IN HELICOPTERS)


THE MAGIC BED (John Burningham)

John Burningham pours his incredible imagination into this book. The Magic Bed (Red Fox, 2003) follows Frank, who on buying a new bed, discovers that it takes him on magical journeys each night. Frank meets pixies and fairies, a lost tiger, he finds a chest full of treasure and has adventures with pirates and witches.

John’s fine line, gentle illustrations leave space for a child’s own imagination to fill in the gaps and opens readers’ mind who will be inspired to have their own dreamy adventures.

A wonderful book for introducing the pleasure and excitement of dreams to young readers.

(Reviewed by Sarah Tagholm, author of WOLVES IN HELICOPTERS)


ALL THE ANIMALS WERE SLEEPING (Clare Helen Welsh, Jenny Lovlie)

All The Animals Were Sleeping (Nosy Crow, 2022) contains soft, poetic language, repetition of key words and the phrase “All The Animals Were Sleeping.” Alongside beautiful characters in magical night time illustrations, this is a perfect bedtime story. Utterly snooze inducing! 

Readers will want to snuggle up as they follow the story of the adorable little mongoose on his journey across The Serengeti, passing all his sleeping neighbours as he heads home to his own burrow. 

“Butterflies rested in the inky darkness, their bright wings and spotty bodies decorating the leaves like jewels,” is my personal favourite, but there are beautiful passages like this on each and every page. There are bonus animal facts at the end of this book, which will certainly help reluctant sleepers feel calm and ready for bed.

(Reviewed by Sarah Tagholm, author of WOLVES IN HELICOPTERS)


TIME FOR BED, MIYUKI (Roxanne Marie Galliez and Seng Soun Ratanavanh

Time For Bed, Miyuki (Princeton Architectural Press, 2017) is a gentle, dreamy story about a little girl that despite Grandfather’s best efforts, won’t go to sleep. There are far too many things to do including watering the vegetables, gathering snails and preparing for the arrival of the Dragonfly Queen.

The cumulative structure adds humour to the storyline and emphasizes the excuses that Miyuki makes to avoid bedtime. The illustrations are dreamy, with so much to pore over. Eventually, Miyuki begins to yawn, and her eyes feel heavy. The clever circular ending sees her fast asleep before the last pages of the book.


THE NIGHT BOX (Ashling Lindsay)

The Night Box (Farshore, 2017) is a magical exploration of night. Through a poetic text and stunning illustrations, the book explores the shifting of day to night from the point of view of main character, Max, who anticipates bedtime.

The use of deliciously descriptive language adds to the dreamy tones of this book, making it a story that could help little ones who struggle to settle at bedtime. The whimsical illustrations, carefully chosen text and sprinkling of night-time magic makes this a different kind of Book That Helps – a gentle lullaby of night.


THE WINTER DRAGON (Caroline Pitcher, Sophy Williams)

The Winter Dragon (Graffeg, 2003) is a beautifully illustrated book in gentle prose about a boy who is afraid of the dark and the imaginary dragon that keeps him safe and warm in the dark winter nights. The artwork has a soft and traditional feel, and the text is a little longer than in some picture books, but the combination of both creates a lilting, gentle story about a kind dragon who warms the dark cold winter nights. The dragon also teaches the child how to let go and say “Goodbye” when he has to return to his fiery home as Spring approaches.

A book to make the dark and winter nights seem less scary. 


SUNSHINE AT BEDTIME (Clare Helen Welsh, Sally Soweol Han)

Curious Miki notices that the evenings are brighter in summer and she wants to know why. Together Mummy and Miki discover the wonder of the Sun, just in time for bed.

Here is a beautiful, lyrical, and reassuring bedtime story that mixes fact and fiction and explains why the Sun appears to set later in summer and why we have day and night and seasons. A lovely double-page spread of non-fiction facts at the end for children (and adults!) to learn more.

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