Bedtime books for “big” kids

IMG_6647Our son turns seven in November. He can read, swim, tie his shoes (for the most part), and ride a bike without training wheels. He is very much A Big Kid.

Even so, this big bad first grader is still jumps at the chance to snuggle in bed and listen as his Mama reads to him. And, of course, I’m happy to oblige.

I’m a big believer in the idea that bedtime reading covers a multitude of sins. No matter how utterly horrific our day might have been, my son and I typically manage to pull it together when it comes time for him to turn in for the night. Bedtime is when we regroup and reconnect before closing out another day together. Sometimes we talk; sometimes we sing; but we always, always read. Reading together is how we best enjoy each other, and it rarely fails to bring us back to a shared place of quiet and contentment.

While he’d be perfectly happy to spend every second of our reading time zipping the same three Ninjago books, I’ve managed to sneak some—shall we say?—“higher quality” selections into our rotation. Each of the books listed below currently sits on my son’s bookshelf (or, in some cases, on my iPad). Some can be read in one sitting, some will take a multiple bedtimes to tackle, but I guarantee they’ll all help smooth the rough edges off even the prickliest of days…and kids…ok, and parents, too.

The Minpins by Roald Dahl
I grew up reading Roald Dahl’s novels—Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches, Matilda, and so on—but this (long-ish) picture book didn’t cross my path until I was up in the attic sorting through boxes of old books my mother-in-law passed along to us years ago.

The Minpins tells the story of Little Billy who wonders into the forest behind his house (despite grave warnings from his mother), gets chased by a horrible, sputtering fire monster,* and finds refuge in a tree where he meets (you guessed it) the Minpins, an entire society of tiny people who live inside the trees.

Your kids will love the descriptions of the Minpins and their homes, and you’ll love how your kids will have a hard time walking by trees without taking a hopeful peek inside.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
When Imogene, Claude, Ralph, Leroy, Ollie, and Gladys Herdman—deemed “the worst kids in the history of world”—show up for church, it’s initially because of the promise of free snacks. But once they hear about the annual Christmas pageant, they are in, eventually bullying their way into the lead roles. The Herdmans stir up all kinds of chaos leading up to the pageant, but when the big night comes, they offer a hilarious, unique, and humble retelling of the birth of Christ that even our skeptical narrator finds touching.

I usually save this one for the week before Christmas, but it’s too funny and delightful to be reined in by pages on a calendar. Anytime is Herdman Time, in my opinion.

The Stinky Cheese Man: And Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka
Spoofing fairy tales like Jack and the Beanstalk, The Ugly Duckling, and Little Red Riding Hood, Jon Scieszka offers up a fun, quirky bedtime read that is sure to bring on a strong case of the giggles. The individual tales are funny on their own, but I recommend tackling them all in one read to achieve the full, snort-laugh-inducing effect.

One by Kathryn Otoshi
While this gem is technically a picture book, by no means is it for little ones only.

One tells the story of Blue, a “quiet color” who often gets picked on by Red, the “hothead.” And even though the other colors don’t like how Red treats Blue, they never stick up for their friend…at least not until One comes along. And as One encourages the other colors to stand up to Red, young readers quickly learn that sometimes it just takes one voice to make everyone realize they count. Maybe they’ll choose to be that voice one day.

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
Here we have another book supposedly intended for the preschool/early elementary set, but to that I say “phooey.” We can all used some time with Ferdinand.

Ferdinand is a bull. However, unlike the other little bulls he lives with on a farm in Spain, Ferdinand has no interest in running and jumping and butting heads; he prefers to “sit just quietly and smell the flowers.” Ferdinand eventually grows to be very big and strong, earning him a coveted spot in the bullring in Madrid. But despite all of the hoopla surrounding the bullfight—the flags flying, the bands playing, the matador flouncing about—Ferdinand refuses to take part. As he stays true to his gentle, flower-smelling ways, Ferdinand shows kids that it’s OK for them to be themselves too.

You also can’t help but love Ferdinand’s mother because, even though she worries about him, she chooses to let him go about his business and be happy. As the book puts it, “she was an understanding mother, even though she was a cow.”

Everything On It by Shel Silverstein
If your copies of A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends are held together with masking tape like ours, I suggest you add this posthumously-published Shel Silverstein collection to your bookshelf.

While Everything On It features gobs of Silverstein’s humorous poetry we’ve come to know and love, there see to be an extra layers of emotion and sweetness woven into this collection. Take, for example, my favorite poem from the book. It’s called “Wall Marks.”

Those scratchy marks there on the wall,
They show how short I used to be.
They rise until they get this tall,
And Mama keeps reminding me
The way my dad would take his pen
And as I stood there, stiff and straight,
He’d put a ruler on my head
And mark the spot and write the date.
She says that it’s my history,
But I don’t understand at all
Just why she cries each time she sees
Those scratchy marks there on the wall.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it seems I have something in my eye…

*The monster doesn’t appear in the illustrations, so it’s not too scary.

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