It’s been a few years since bedtime stories have been a regular thing in our house. For years it was part of the nightly ritual to read a story or two (or sometimes five!) to our daughter right before tucking her in.
Now she’s 10, and doesn’t have much time for stories—as a family, we usually watch Full House on Netflix instead.
But with the arrival of her baby brother, it got us thinking all warm and nostalgic about some of her favourite children’s books, and all those peaceful, playful moments right before lights out. Like us, our daughter gravitates toward things she likes and holds onto them, so each of these books was read dozens of times before moving on to the next one. Sometimes they’d be piled three deep for bedtime.
This list is by no means exhaustive. They’re only the most amazing, memorable, and meaningful of the bunch. We hope baby brother appreciates them just as much!
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This is a funny, quirky little rhyming book that has its main character searching high and low for his beloved teddy bear so he can finally get to bed. The fun of it is that we get to see the silly bear playing and hiding, while his stuffed animal friends also play and hide all over the house. We won’t spoil the twist ending for you, except to say that it does end happily.
This adorable little book isn’t one we had with our daughter, but was a new gift for the baby. And he LOVES it! Like, ear-to-ear smiles every time we bring it out at bedtime (so we know it’ll be a permanent addition to the library). It’s about the way a child’s stuffed toy spends the night on guard, protecting its little person from monsters and bad dreams — which, it turns out, is why it also spends all day sleeping. An adorable little rhyming book with a great comforting message your littles will love.
If you don’t know Olivia by now, you’re missing out! The precocious piglet has become such a mainstay of children’s literature, it’s hard to imagine bedtime without her. Olivia is a young lady with a big personality, a HUGE imagination, and a bit of an attitude to match.
The rhythm of the classic Olivia books is somewhat different from standard children’s literature. It reads almost like a graphic novel, so the beauty of its visuals become even more engaging. And, of course, it’s a hilarious portrait of a little girl that any parent of a little person with big personality will immediately be drawn to.
We didn’t even know Holly Hobbie was a real person — we always assumed it was just the name of the little bonnet-headed girl so popular in decorating motifs from the 70s. It turns out, she’s actually a well-known watercolour artist who created a character persona of herself to sell to a greeting card company!
Well, it also turns out she’s a brilliant author, and her Toot & Puddle books are amazing! These two best friends couldn’t be more different. Puddle is a homebody who loves to relax and enjoy making his space as comfortable as possible. Toot is an adventurer whose wanderlust takes him to the most amazing places in the world. They’re very much like us. Amanda’s a travel bug and Steve is all about the comforts of home. But together, our adventures are just as big and warm and hilarious as Toot & Puddle’s!
The If You Give a… books by Numeroff and Bond are hilarious sequential books about the effects of actions. In this one, the character is warned about the consequences of giving a mouse a cookie, which leads to a glass of milk, which leads to a straw, which leads to…
You get the idea. Things range from the mundane (like needing a napkin) to the outrageous (like needing supplies to clean the whole house). The artwork is charming, the story is hysterically funny, and after a few reads the kids really get into the page-turning laughs and giggles as they anticipate the next over-the-top request.
This book still brings a tear to my eye. It’s an exploration of nature that actually teaches things about how weather and astrophysics work, while also encouraging children to see themselves as having a special place in the world. They learn that they’re welcome in their home, and that those who surround them are there to nurture and protect them. And also that animals have a global communications network that could be used to overthrow humanity, so we’d better watch it.
Guess How Much I Love You has become a perennial classic. Think about it: how many pieces of Pinterest art have you seen with “I love you to the moon and back” painted onto reclaimed wood? This is the book it comes from.
There’s a reason for that. This beautiful book features a little brown hare and his father playing a game of one-upmanship that probably every parent has played with a young child at some point. “I love you.” “I love you more.” “Nuh-uh…I love you THIS much!” …and so on into the night. Well, Little Nutbrown Hare finally lays down to sleep thinking he’s won, until his father — echoing the sentiment of every parent ever — offers the closing line of the book and one of the most quotable sentences ever written.
The “My Chunky Friend Story Book” series by Massey and Bone is actually a really adorable set of books. Each volume features a cute animal on some adventure or other. The books are made from sturdy, chunky plastic pages, and our daughter used to use several of them (Elephant, Busby, Spotty Dog, and Sardines the Cat were all favourites) to build a house for her Russian nesting dolls. She also got quite good at reciting the rhymes from memory, as well as doing the reading and counting included as part of the lesson.
We don’t know if these are even still available. All our online searches turned up only some used copies at Amazon, and nothing at Indigo or the publisher. If you do find them, PLEASE do link in the comments. We have a bunch of them, and if you can find them at the book store they’re great to give as baby shower gifts!