The arrival of shorter days and longer nights up here in the Northern hemisphere is a bit of conundrum for me. I love the autumn weather and watching the trees change color but seriously do not love getting up for work while it’s still dark outside. However, all year round I love picture books featuring night-time themes. It might have something to do with how easy it is to recommend them as bedtime stories. It makes sense that reading books that take place at night will suit the situation of getting kids ready for bed as the sun goes down. Or, perhaps I am just into the visual aesthetic of night-time scenes and enjoy the many creative ways that illustrators portray them with shadows and glowing images. Whatever the reasons, I thought this was the perfect time of year to share some of my favorite night-themed picture-books with you all.
Noisy Night by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Brian Biggs.
A rollicking, riotously noisy night descends upon a very tall building. Starting on the ground floor, a young child’s sleep is interrupted by a noise in the apartment upstairs. As the pages turn, each resident hears another one making a different noise above their heads, and things get seriously silly – these people should all be in bed! But what happens when the noise reaches the top floor? Children and adults will delight in the vibrant illustrations and the satisfying conclusion to this bedtime tall tale.
Night Lunch, written by Eric Fan and illustrated by Dena Seiferling
Late at night, on a dark city street, a crowd of hungry creatures line up at Owl’s night lunch cart and enjoy a delectable array of food while Little Mouse sweeps the sidewalk nearby. After Fox, Badger, and all the others are fed and gone, Little Mouse is left without a crumb. A moment of tension snaps when Owl prepares a feast for his tiny new friend, before rolling his night lunch cart away just as the sky begins to brighten. Luminous illustrations, delicious-looking food, and plenty of interspecies warmth and generosity will delight everyone who reads this story (best enjoyed with a yummy midnight snack!)
The Night World, written and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein
This wondrous book counters Gerstein’s childhood memory of looking out a window at night and being frightened and bewildered by the dark, shadowy, and unfamiliar scene that usually contained his backyard. In this story, an impatient pet cat awakens a sleeping child and demands a moonlit walk through their backyard where the mystery of darkness enchants them. Eventually a soft glow slowly grows into daylight as the night creatures head to their beds while the sun bursts forth leaving the child and cat to greet the new day.
Fox at Night, written and illustrated by Corey R. Tabor
The night is dark and full of
terrors monsters…at least Fox thinks so as he cowers in his tent. At first appearing very monster-like through Fox’s binoculars, a small bat reassures Fox that there are no monsters and the two venture out into the night together. Next Fox hears a sound he is sure means there is a monster nearby, but he finds out it is only noisy raccoon. Soon, Fox smells a terrible smell that must be a monster only to discover it is a skunk. What happens next will delight and surprise beginning readers and anyone who happens to be listening to this adorable story. This would be a great pick for an early readers’ book club too!
The Night is Yours, written by Abdul-Razak Zachariah and illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo
The protagonist Amani’s father narrates a warm account of his young daughter’s evening playtime in their apartment’s courtyard. While Amani plays a game of hide-and-seek with great determination, the narration includes descriptions of how the playmates’ diverse skin tones appear in the moonlight, while the illustrations are beautifully rendered to show their different hair textures too. This reassuring story celebrates joyful Black childhood as well as the growth of independence under the light of a happy moon.
Go ahead, dance together in celebration! Show everyone else how to embrace the night like you. Teach them how to be a night-owning girl like you.
I think all five of these picture books would work well at daytime and evening storytime programs. They are perfect for displays and recommended reading lists as well. What are your favorite night-themed stories? Add them to the comments. If you’re in the Northern hemisphere, join me as I try to forget about the shrinking hours of daylight and welcome the night-time delights that these books have to offer instead!
Tess Prendergast worked as a children’s librarian for 23 years. She has a PhD in early literacy education and now teaches librarianship and children’s literature courses at The School of Information, University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada. She currently facilitates the ALSC Preschool Discussion group and has served on both the Geisel (2023) and Caldecott (2016) committees.