“Best of The Year” lists are continuing to come out, and here are two picture books that are included on Kirkus Reviews’ “Best of 2020.” I’m honored to say that one of the books is mine.
In “Bedtime for Sweet Creatures” (2020, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, written by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon, ages 2-6), “No! No! No!” beats through the air like a drum the minute mother says, “Come, sweet creature. It’s bedtime.”
The brightly-colored collage illustrations show stubborn anger filling the child’s face and gentle patience on her mother’s.
“Your eyes swell, wide as OWLS,” mother says, as her child asks, “Who? Who?”
“Bear is going,” mother persists. “He’ll be awfully lonely without you.” Her child comes running “into the forest” of her room and jumps into bed with the GROWL (animal and sound words are written in large, colorful letters) of a tiger.
“Zunon’s art takes this book to the next level: Her portrayals of the animals mentioned in the text are colorful and full of intriguing patterns and shapes,” Kirkus’ review states.
The story progresses with the child hiding beneath her quilt, “silent as a snake,” scared of monsters.
Even after mother trumpets them away, the child tosses her MANE and ROARS, ordering mom to check under the bed.
Though the bookshelf is NOISY with stories, reading one brings a yawn, the child’s teeth grind like a SQUIRREL “ready to nibble the night.”
After the story, she hangs on like a KOALA for one last kiss, then bounds out like a SLY WOLF on the hunt for water, and finally LOPEs back to bed.
“Arguably, the sweetest part of the story comes at the end,” the review says, “when the child asks to sleep with Mommy and Dad. Though the mother sighs, the child climbs in, along with “owl, bear, snake, kitty, fawn, squirrel, koala, tiger, wolf.”
Grimes’ poetry is beautiful and tells the story effectively and uniquely, making this a bedtime book sure to be enjoyed by kids and parents alike.
In “A Story for Small Bear” (2020, Schwartz and Wade Books, written by Alice B. McGinty, illustrated by Richard Jones, ages 2-6), a late-autumn wind swirls into Small Bear and Mama’s den after noontime nap, and Mama smells frost in the air.
“Tonight we’ll start our winter slumber,” she tells Small Bear. “Will you tell me stories before we sleep?” Small Bear asks.
Mama loves the idea but tells Small Bear there’s work to finish first.
“If you help — no dilly, no dally — then we’ll have time for stories.”
The day progresses as they work to gather sprigs of spruce for a warm winter’s nest, bathe in the river, and feast on berries and acorns, and the sun moves across the sky, and winter comes knocking.
It’s hard not to dilly and dally, but Small Bear keeps Mama’s words in mind, and in the end, back in their den, falls asleep to her very own story in Mama’s deep rumbling voice.
Kirkus writes in their review, “McGinty’s rhythmic prose and absolute mastery of pace elevate a simple story to something poetically potent. Jones’ deeply textured illustrations make every spruce sprig and, especially, the bears’ fur stand out beautifully. A standout spread rotates the book 90 degrees for a tall tree climb; it’s a delight, just like everything else in this expertly executed picture book … Hibernation has rarely felt so well earned and enchanting.”