reviews and stories about parenting with picture books

The PBH Bedtime Canon


Who knew that getting a kid to sleep would be so exhausting…

Is she too hot? Too cold? Hungry? Thirsty? Not tired? Overtired? Should we turn on Sleep Sheep? A humidifier? A second night-light? Let her cry? Snuggle? Sing, “just one more song…”

At least a few things have become clear over the last three years: 1) sleep routines are essential 2) they must involve reading 3) at bedtime, not just any book will do.

There are about a dozen books, many of them given to us before our first was even born, that have become the Picture Book House Bedtime Canon.

My daughter will be three a week from tomorrow, which means it is possible I have read Goodnight Moon over 500 times, if I count bedtime and nap time and that it is now one of my son’s favorites, too.

My daughter has never “attached” to a doll or a bear or a blanket, but we didn’t dare leave the house for an overnight trip without her copy of I Love You Through and Through.

I have no doubt that the repetition of these books, tens of hundreds of times, has had a powerful, positive effect on my daughter, the reader.

Sometime between age one-and-a-half and two she started asking for different books at bedtime. Fancy Nancy, A Sick Day for Amos McGee (blog post here), Knuffle Bunny and Kunffle Bunny Too (blog post here) replaced Each Peach Pear Plum and The Going to Bed Book.

But, as I’ve written about before, when we grow out of our bedtime books in one room they don’t get shelved. Rather, they move from my daughter’s bedtime book basket to my son’s.

This is lucky for me, given that I’m also attached to these books.

It wouldn’t be longing to hold a newborn that would lure me into having a third kid. No, it would be that I no longer had anybody who wanted me to readPoems!” as they call A Small Child’s Book of Cozy Poems, while we snuggle in a rocking chair.

And since we are happy as a family of four, for the next year or so I better really enjoy the following books at bedtime:

  • Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd
  • I Love You Through and Through, Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak, illustrated by Caroline Jayne Church
  • A Small Child’s Book of Cozy Poems, illustrated by Cyndy Szekeres (Scholastic, 1999) (blog post here)
  • Each Peach Pear Plum, Janet and Allan Ahlberg (Viking, 1999, first published 1978)
  • I Could Eat You Up!, Jo Harper, illustrated by Kay Chorao (Holiday House, 2007)
  • The Going to Bed Book, Sandra Boynton (Little Simon Books, 1984)
  • In Grandma’s Arms, Jayne C. Shelton, illustrated by Karen Katz
  • Kitten’s First Full Moon, Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow Books, 2004)
  • Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury (See blog post here).
  • How Do I Love You?, Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Caroline Jayne Church
  • My World: a companion to Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd
  • Flip, Flap, Fly! A Book for Babies Everywhere, Phyllis Root, illustrated by David Walker (Candlewick, 2009)
  • Ten, Nine, Eight, Molly Bang (Greenwillow Books, 1983) (See blog post here).

2 Responses to “The PBH Bedtime Canon”

  1. Catherine

    Thanks for such a great list, most I know but a couple are new to me. Each Peach Pear Plum and The Going to Bed Book are favourites of ours. We also love Can’t You Sleep Little Bear? by Martin Waddell.

    • abbynies

      Thanks, Catherine. I am excited to read Can’t You Sleep Little Bear.


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