Notes From a Children's Librarian: Into the Land of Nod

Our children's librarian columnist, Julie Booker, presents some books that just might get your kids to sleep before midnight this summer. No guarantees.

‘Tis the season of overnight camps, slumber party invites, rebellious summer bedtimers. My favourite thing to do with nine-year-olds is to turn out the lights and read scary stories. The kind that end with a spook: “I’m coming for YOU!!!”, as I leap toward a listener in the front row. One year, after a few flashlight sessions, a parent came in to tell me his son was having nightmares, and that each night they lined up a variety of toy weapons (a plastic sword, a water pistol) by his bed. The father then asked for advice about fear of sleep, which, in retrospect, was his way of asking me to quit reading those stories.

The true antidote to sleep anxiety is, of course, great books. Melanie Watt’s Scaredy Squirrel at Night comes to mind. The neurotic rodent also makes a list of objects needed to face bad dreams, including a fan to blow away ghosts, a banana peel to slip up monsters. Bonus: the kid-friendly section on the benefits of a good night’s sleep, i.e., increased brain power (see well-rested Scaredy Squirrel proudly present his completed Rubik’s cube).

Robert Munsch writes about a boy who keeps finding his somnambulant father snoring on top of the fridge, in the bathtub, and finally outside, in 50 Below Zero.

Julie Lawson created a preschooler’s introduction to hibernation and the changing seasons in Bear on the Train, in which Jeffrey is the only one to see the black mammal board a locomotive. Each time the bear arrives back in town, the boy yells “Hey! Off the train!” but the bear snores on.

That feeling of being privy to things no one else sees is also present in Night Cars, by Teddy Jam and Eric Beddows. It’s basically a father’s poem to his sleepless baby as they spy city life outside the bedroom window: partygoers in taxis, long haul trucks, snow ploughs. “Night cars shining in the night/ Stop and bow at each red light.” The rhythmic city finally lulls baby to sleep in the morning coffee shop with Dad.

Toddlers will also like Goodnight Sam, in which the beloved character, Stella, helps her brother overcome his fear of sleep. This one has Marie-Louise Gay’s trademark humour and simplicity.

zzz

Finally, Trudee Romanek’s ZZZ: The Most Interesting Book You'll Ever Read About Sleep, deconstructs the whole process, i.e., sleepwalking (like the 11-year-old who got on a train in the middle of the night and ended up 160 km from home), how our brain is done its regenerative work by two a.m., as well as the somatic habits of astronauts, animals, and Leonardo da Vinci. Plus, there’s a cool test to see if you’re ZZZing the right amount.

July 22, 2013
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