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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Good Night, Sleep Tight, written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Judy Horacek. Orchard Books, Scholastic. 2013. $18.99 ages 2 and up

"We love it!
We love it!"
said Bonnie and Ben.
"How does it go?
Will you say it again?"

"Some  other time," said
Skinny Doug.
"But I'll tell you another
I heard from my mother:"

Ah, Poetry Month and what better way to celebrate than with books that make readers bounce with rhythm while learning all about rhyme...especially nursery rhymes. Not a lot of children know them these days! It's sad.

I am happy to share Mem Fox's belief that most children who know six nursery rhymes by heart before they are four years old are likely to be successful readers by the time they are eight. That's a pretty encouraging statistic, isn't it? I spent a bit of time with eight month old Bentley just this past weekend. He and I had a great time dancing and singing; I also spent time sharing some of my favorite nursery rhymes with him, from my heart rather than a book. He was totally attentive to the sound of my voice, to the fun of clapping along with the rhythms, and to some of the silliness that can be a part of such sharing.

In planning for books I might post this month, and considering the joy that children find in words, I remembered that I had not shared this book with you. What I was thinking?

This charmer was published first in 1988, and meant to help young children delight in those rhymes that we have shared over many years. Following their success with Where Is the Green Sheep? (Harcourt, 2004), Ms. Fox and Judy Horacek have teamed up to create a new, bold version of that original bedtime story. I love the premise, and the promise of it!

Skinny Doug is the absolute favorite sitter of all time for Bonnie and Ben. They are thrilled with his presence on a Friday night. After a few shared games, it's time for bed:

"Good night, sleep tight.
Hope the fleas don't bite!
If they do,
squeeze 'em tight
and they won't bite
another night!"

Who wouldn't want to hear that again? Skinny Doug is not so keen on repeating that verse, but he goes on to share six others (that he learned from his mother!). With each repetitive refrain from the children, he is encouraged to add to their repertoire. It will take no time at all for your listeners to be independently moving the story along for you.

The text is perfect for little ones! Mem Fox is incredibly adept at creating stories that encourage them to want to read on their own. Her books have been favorites of mine through the years, and I have a special place on my 'keepers' shelf for each one of them.

Judy Horacek matches the text perfectly with artwork that is visually stimulating,  not bogging children down with too many details. She has chosen watercolor and ink to complement the joy in the rhymes, while also allowing the children to imagine themselves part of the action. There is lots of movement, and a range in presentation that will hold their attention and encourage the plea: 'please, read it again!' Bedtime is delayed, children are happy!

While I have ALWAYS loved sharing Mem Fox's books with young readers, no one reads them better than the author herself!

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