George and His Nighttime Friends

George and His Nighttime Friends
Seng Soun Ratanavanh
Princeton Architectural Press

George, the lonely child protagonist in this nocturnal tale lies awake unable to sleep on account of his fear of the dark. “I wish I had a nighttime friend, even a small one,” he says one night. Surprised to hear a voice responding in the darkness, the boy sees beneath his bed a tiny mouse offering to help.

The mouse leads George downstairs and into a wonderful adventure in his very own house. The two explorers’ first encounter is with book guardian Mole,

then an elegant, piano-playing rabbit with stage fright, followed in the bathroom by a little penguin with a fear of the water and lots of other things. The four friends plunge into a warm bath to help Penguin with his frights and then during their search for towels they discover in the dryer a panda.

Said Panda is in need of a badminton opponent to help fulfil an ambition. There follows a crazy badminton game which fuels their hunger

and results in a new encounter in the kitchen and the making of another nighttime friend.

At last, surrounded by the host of new friends, George realises that night isn’t so scary as he’d supposed. A cosy bed calls and now it’s time to bid farewell to his friends and …. zzzzz …

Wonderfully whimsical, and wondrously illustrated in Seng Soun Ratanavanh’s richly patterned trademark fashion, this book is a perfect bedtime treat for youngsters and adults to read together. Both will savour the magical scenes – sometimes comforting and reassuring, sometimes playful – with their unusual perspectives, wealth of detail and superb use of light and shadow, throughout. Be prepared for an extended bedtime experience as youngsters will want to spend ages poring over every spread.

Tomorrow Most Likely

Tomorrow Most Likely
Dave Eggers and Lane Smith
Chronicle Books

Dave Eggers has penned rhyming ponderings upon the possibilities of what tomorrow might have in store. None of us knows what the next day will bring but Eggers’ likelihoods are safe, reassuring, sometimes weird like this something that won’t rhyme

and sometimes totally delightful: ‘Tomorrow most likely / there will be a sky / And chances are it will be blue.’ … ‘Tomorrow most likely / you’ll smell the good smell / of an unseen flower you can’t quite name.’ … ‘Tomorrow most likely / you’ll pick up a stone / striped like a spiderweb or maybe a brain.’

In this bedtime story, his laid back languorous, rhythmic textual repetition provides both comfort and cheer –seemingly spoken by the mother from the title page bidding her child goodnight and in so doing looking forward.

Lane Smith holds up a two-way mirror to Egger’s contemplations with his mixed media images of a boy heading out through the door to wander around his urban environment encountering such oddities as a troubled big-eyed bug missing his friend named Stu; or that curved-beaked creature sporting a paper-hat, as well as envisaging eccentricities like eating the cloud-cone as he pauses in a flower-filled patch of green and then, clutching the cone, sings atop a rocky tower;

and closing with the boy now sleeping, dreaming of tomorrow, happy in the belief that because he’s in it, it will be ‘a great day.’

Touches of whimsy abound in this detailed urban landscape especially for those who know how to look for the extraordinary in the seemingly ordinary.

For All the Stars Across the Sky

For All the Stars Across the Sky
Karl Newson and Chiaki Okada
Walker Books

If you’re looking for a gorgeous bedtime story then Karl Newson’s new book will surely fit the bill.

It’s time for little Luna to get ready for bed. Mum’s there to bid her goodnight but first there’s time for a wish: “For all the stars across the sky, / Big and little and bright, / Here’s a wish from me to you, / Before we say goodnight.”

They close their eyes and wish as they take off on some amazing adventures. They fly like birds, soaring through the clouds on a trip around the world; they dive deep and swim together to the accompaniment of whale song;

they shrink to ladybird tinyness and gaze at the sky …

and then, normal size restored, stomp giant style all the way back home for lights out, a special goodnight kiss and … sweet dreams.

Mum bear’s love for her little one shines forth from Karl’s gentle telling which sounds like a softly spoken lullaby.

New to me, illustrator Chiaki Okada brings her own magic to every single page in gently glowing soft focus scenes of both the bedtime ritual and Luna’s flights of fancy, elegantly rendered in appropriately muted tones that draw you further into the story.

Everything about this book is special; words, pictures and the design too, all contribute to the sense of peacefulness and the warmth of the parent/child relationship.