I welcomed bedtime when I was a boy because bedtime meant story time – and I looooved storytime. Among my favorite bedtime stories were A Pocket for Corduroy (anybody remember the short 1984 movie of the same name? Unlike the book, it’s the stuff nightmares are made of); If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (I still have a special place in my heart for nocturnal vermin); and The Sesame Street Bedtime Storybook (because I was Big Bird’s #1 fan when I was four years old).
Thinking back to those nights curled up with my mom or my grandmother as they ushered me off to dreamland by reciting those books cover to cover for the umpteenth time brings back fond memories – and, much like a good bedtime story itself, sometimes fond memories are just what you need to end a hard day.
I’ve asked several children’s books authors – who may have already added to the memories you’re making with your own children – what bedtime stories they hold dear. Some are popular kids’ books, while others are little-known titles. What matters most, however, is that each of these books (and so many more) have given us something to smile about well after the lights go out.
So put on your comfiest jammies and slip into your fuzzy slippers, bedtime-story lovers. It’s time to take a trip down Memory Lane.
“My favorite bedtime story was The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge. Why? It’s a heartwarming story about the threat of obsolescence in a cold world of progress. The little red lighthouse feared it was being put out to pasture when the bridge was being built over it. I couldn’t get enough of that story – or the happy ending – right before bed. Like all great stories, it’s as powerful now as it was half a century ago.”
–Dean Hacohen, author of the interactive bedtime book Tuck Me In!, which allows children to turn die-cute blanket-patterned pages to tuck in a cute series of baby animals.
“One of my favorite bedtime stories as a kid was Green Eggs and Ham, because it taught me to try new things. As a parent, I liked to read that to my kids, but their favorite was The Little Engine That Could.”
“Decades ago, when my son was a small boy, reading Goodnight Moon was our bedtime ritual. The rhyme was a gentle lullaby; the illustrations, a soothing landscape. The great green room was our special place; ‘goodnight nobody,’ our favorite line. Thank you, Margaret Wise Brown, for the words that eased my child to sleep. And thank you, Clement Hurd, for the illustrations that play in my mind, even now. All these years later, my evening mantra: ‘Goodnight stars. Goodnight air. Goodnight noises everywhere.’ I still love Goodnight Moon.”
–Elaine Wolf, author of CAMP, a coming-of-age YA novel about a high school girl who faces bullying at summer camp as she begins to learn a dark secret about her mother.
“My favorite bedtime story is The Runaway Bunny. I loved reading it to my daughter at bedtime because it conveys the love a mother has for her child and the lengths she will go to to make sure her little ‘bunny’ is safe and is loved so much that Mom will become anything and go anywhere to watch over her. I think of it so much right now as my little one is now an 18-year-old ‘runaway bunny’ off on an adventure to the West Coast. I really thought of putting a copy of the book in her luggage, but figured it would only be met with a roll of the eyes and a ‘Geez, Mom!’”
–Karen Hahn, author of Millicent and the Faraway Moon, the story of a blue cow who has trouble believing in herself and her ability to jump over the moon like the other cows.
“I love The Three Pigs by David Wiesner because he takes a well-known tale and messes with it in the most wonderful, mind-bending way. The pigs outsmart the wolf, literally busting out of the story frames and onto the white spaces on the page so they can escape their fate. They use the paper from the wolf story to make an airplane and fly off the page. My favorite illustration occurs just after the realistic-looking pigs climb into a cartoonish nursery rhyme and as they escape this story their hind quarters are cartoon and their front quarters – emerging back out from the nursery rhyme – are real again. It is fabulous! It doesn’t matter how many times you read it. It never gets old.”
–Tanya Lee Stone, author of the upcoming Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell.
“My parents did not read to us as they were foreigners and spoke Arabic, coming to Australia once married. So we children grew up only being able to read English, being born in Australia. When I was 11, we went on a plane flight overseas and the [flight attendant] gave the children toys and books to read I was given Enid Blyton’s The Wishing Chair. I thought it was the most amazing thing I had ever read. The chair was found in a secondhand shop and placed in a children’s playroom. It would grow wings at unexpected times, and once the children sat in it, it would fly off to all sorts of magical, fantastical places where amazing adventures took place. I loved reading about those crazy places. It made me understand that fantasy stories are great because you can make up anything! From that time on, I read all her books. I loved The Magic Faraway Tree. I began to collect her books; buy them for my younger siblings too. One of the first books I ever wrote myself when I was 18 was a similar type of fantasy story, starring my own younger brother and sisters. I still have it. Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl have always been family favorites, now with my own children. Our shelves are stacked with their works.”
–Loulou Szal, author of The Diary of Arnmore, a fantasy filled with wolfs, elves, dark forces, and a Great Forest.
“When my daughter was young I found a book at an estate sale called The Crows of Pearlblossom by Aldous Huxley. Turns out it was the only children’s story he ever wrote, dedicated to his niece. It became my daughter’s favorite bedtime story and, fortunately, its darkly comic tone appealed to both of us. We still love that book.”
–Nancy Mehagian, author of The Supernatural Kids Cookbook, an innovative collection of healthy recipes and easy instructions to assist junior chefs.
Do you have a favorite bedtime book that you remember from childhood? What book did your kids love for you to read to them? Share your memories in the comments below.