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​Kristl's Bedtime Stories ListPhoto of staff member Kristl

Meet Kristl

Kristl is Phoenix Public Library's Web Content Librarian. In her past librarian life, she was a trained art librarian turned children's librarian. A mother of two boys (4 and 7), Kristl enjoys being a crazy plant lady, painting, writing paper letters to friends and throwing parties. Despite belonging to 4 book clubs, Kristl can never quite figure out why she doesn't have time to read.

Meet her list

Bedtime is a precious time when families can join together and share a beloved book in total peace and harmony. Just kidding. It's the begging for the books while you attempt the keeping open of the sleepy eyes. And somehow, it's still a little bit magical. Bedtime stories and kisses (never mutually exclusive) are quite often the highlight of everyone's evening in my house. They bookend a very chaotic time filled with teeth brushing and flossing and lost socks and "I need fresh water; this water is rotten." They are the day's cool down. They are when kids become gentle and tender and suddenly philosophic. Fall into this divine sweetness, parents and caregivers, but not too hard. They may just be conning you into staying up late.

Here are our family's picks for bedtime story books. The ones we like right now. Not including the classics (Sendak, Seuss, Silverstein, to name a few) and all those books that all the well-meaning relatives gave us. Of course we're reading those, too.

Sweet dreams!

This is far and away our favorite book. We've been reading it the entire span of my eldest's life. There are sound effects, inside jokes, and props. Every one of us has a part. It's like a bedtime Vaudeville family show. Singing softly like the mama bear at the end of the little bear's day is like a Pavlovian call to begin shutting all eyelids. Find a book like this, parents. Take it on vacation with you. Read it on nights where you might not read anything else.  It can be magic.
The book with no pictures          
If Little Fur Family is comfort, this is silliness. This is catnip. Every child loves to see their grownup act a fool. I willingly do this because the little chuckles are just too much! They always ask for an encore, but I've never given one. How could I? This book takes it all out of me.
p.s. Never listen to any other adult read this to your kids. This is one of those things, like making scrambled eggs, where you feel you do it best but, really, there are many ways of doing it well. You will judge their theatrical choices and your kids will laugh. And you will be bewildered!
Shh! We have a plan          
This picture book relies on mood, suspense, and just a few words. It has a rhythm that does well for the winding-down nature of bedtime.
Please, Mr. Panda          
Oh, when I picked up this book I thought "What an adorable panda" and like so many other books we "try out," it will be returned to the library and we will continue on, having attempted to let another story into our hearts. Not the case. My sons LOVE this book. I renewed it the max 6 times and had to purchase it for fear of the revolt that would no doubt happen if we went any time without this story. It is repetition, character, and humor at its finest. Read it and relate to the panda who just wants to hear the word please. Steve Antony has become a favorite author.
The duckling gets a cookie!?          
Apparently I'm obsessed with politely asking for things. As parents of littles, it's a concept that can't be driven home too hard, am I right? Here we have our dear friend, The Pigeon, who's at it again with all the injustice in the world. Like we do with The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog, we take "bites" out of this book. We are weird.
A perfectly messed-up story          
Let's talk about getting things wrong and moving on anyway. This is a lesson that my boys, like many children, struggle with. In fact, many adults still struggle with this. The WORLD loves to dwell on failure and the quest for perfection, as a matter of fact. This book tackles this issue lightheartedly. It's funny and messy and that's okay. Great for the end of a day that didn't go so great.
Thunder Boy Jr.          
Sherman Alexie is a favorite author of mine and this is his first picture book! Illustrated by Yuyi Morales, the story about family and pride centers on a son's discontent with his given name. It's relatable and it only made me cry once. Okay, twice. Excuse me, I have to call my folks...
I am yoga          
Sometimes the wiggles are too much. You stare in awe at your tireless children and wonder if it's scientifically possible to transfer the excess energy of children into you because that laundry isn't going to do itself. Author Susan Verde offers basic yoga poses in kidspeak in this peaceful, empowering little book. Side effect: Your kids now do yoga.
Mr. Tiger goes wild          
I'm a big proponent of being yourself. Do you, babies. That is my motto. However, it's hard to maintain this spirit of individualism in a world that is fond of boxes. In a world of labels, be like Mr. Tiger. 
Alan's big, scary teeth          
Alan's story is one we all know well. We have our public lives and we have our private lives. Sometimes the divide between these is wide and even wider when assumptions are made about how we "should" be. This is a good one at the end of a day during which your kid, maybe, had a rough day. It's silly but poignant.
I had a favorite dress          
This story is about embracing change with grace and enthusiasm. This is as much for the parents as it is for the kids. The art is gorgeous and the lesson within is one that comes up a lot in real life as it can apply not to just a favorite dress, but a favorite t-shirt, blanket, toy, or book.
The bear's sea escape          
I enjoy reading Chaud's Bear books because they are whimsical and fun. You can, and will, lose yourself in the illustrations. These books contain the kind of dream-like imagery that is welcome right before falling into your own personal dreamworld.
Wolfie the bunny          
This one is about love. And how love combats fear. It's a message that cannot be repeated enough. The illustrations are colorful and sweet.
Mix it up!          
This is a first-story-of-the-night kind of book. Tullet's books (try Press Here, as well) are wildly interactive and seemingly full of magic. Let your child let loose on the (sturdy, whew) pages of this book to create a world of color and texture. Tip: If you have more than one child, sit in the middle and hold on tight to the book. Take turns. Things get crazy.  
Chicka chicka boom boom          
This is a quick one that everyone knows by heart. Just when you think reaching for this one is a bit of a cop out, you will likely see your kid's face light up. It's just good fun. Each letter gets bumped up in a completely unique way because SPOILER ALERT: Chicka chicka boom boom there will not be enough room. Next time, might I suggest a nice, wide-based bush, letters of the English alphabet?
The day the crayons quit          
Oh, boy, Duncan has gone and done it. He's used his crayons in the way all children do and his little wax friends are not having it. This book is super imaginative and calls for lots of theatrics from the reader. Each of my boys has their favorite crayon resignation letter (yup, just typed that) and the author has a knack for fleshing out a wide variety of personalities and gripes. Come for the pleas of the overused red crayon, stay for the drama between yellow and orange, who each claim they are the true color of the sun. This book is on the medium-long side, so it's not for a late night. Just a giggly one.  
Niño wrestles the world          
Ah, my girl Yuyi. Representing generations of mothers of kids who run around in their underpants saving the world. This delightful picture book is told like the narrative of a lucha libre event and includes characters from Mexican folklore like La Llorona and Olmec heads come to life! Niño obliterates them all, but his last match is his most feared. Watch author and illustrator Yuyi Morales read the book.
Goodnight already!          
When. It's. Time. To. Just. Go. To. Bed. Already.

Chapter Book Read-Alouds

Now that the boys are older, less wiggly, and less distracted, we sprinkle in chapters from chapter books during bedtime. It takes a while to get through the books, but the slower experience leads to lots of great conversations in between. It's a great change of pace.

The BFG          
Want a challenge? Be sleepy and tackle Roald Dahl's Gobblefunk language. I was able to successfully fool my children with whatever gibberish I could muster (because gibberish, my friends, is not quite Gobblefunk) but now that my oldest reads, I can't really get away with it.
The BFG is the last Dahl book we read, but, really, you can't go wrong with any of his works.
Harry Potter and the sorcerer's stone          
Ours is a Potter household. Rowling's books are ideal read-alouds for families with children emotionally ready for the potentially "scary" aspects of the wizarding world (Dementors, I'm looking at you. Oh, wait, no I'm not. Like, at all. Please go away.). We are cruising along with the first two books and are prepared to reread before we move onto prisons and wizard tournaments. Basically, when things get real.
Also recommended is the more recent illustrated version
Charlotte's web          
Animals. Animals that talk. Life lessons. Oh, the life lessons! There's a special kind of charm with this one. I highly recommend it become part of your bedtime story rotation.  

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