My son takes issue with the term night owl. “What’s the other kind of owl? A day owl?” he says. Schooled by my third-grader, I almost titled this post “Books for Owls and Larks,” but thanks to Google, I now get to wow him with my knowledge of the northern hawk owl and northern pygmy owl, both of which hunt during the day. So take that, nine-year-old prodigy!
We are confirmed larks, my children and I, and that sweet hour between five and six am is the best part of the day. Everyone is fresh (well, not my husband; he’s sleeping) and nothing is rushed, and absolutely no one is texting me or asking me for a Girl Scout cookie. I’m drinking coffee and the day doesn’t have any mistakes in it yet. Clark is talking to me about video games or school or what he would do if he won the lottery. Helen is having her sacred alone time in her room, reading and playing the piano and, as long as we don’t stick our heads into her room and interrupt, everything is peaceful and no one is fighting yet.
Even when my kids are jet-lagged and it should feel like 2a to their little west coast bodies, they will consistently wake between five and six am, even on the first day of travel. It’s like they can sense the sun. Not that it’s visible yet at 5am, but I’m sure they know it’s coming.
So whether you’re reading these books at a 6p bedtime for your early risers, or at a 9p bedtime with your little night owls, these are the books that should be on the nightstand.
Dream Animals: A Bedtime Journey by Emily Winfield Martin
This is one that is so simple you can read it to your toddler, and so beautiful even your older child will be transfixed. (Also, Emily Winfield Martin is a Portlander! Check out her stunning book of paper dolls, too.)
Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late by Mo Willems
I know everyone already knows how awesome Mo Willems is, but I couldn’t leave this one off the list. At least I didn’t put (the lovely) Goodnight Moon on the list, right? Well, I guess now I have, but I’m not sorry. As long as I’m at it, don’t forget about Ira Sleeps Over and There’s a Nightmare in My Closet, both classics, both wonderful. And as long as we’re talking about nightmares . . .
Tiger Vs. Nightmare by Emily Tetri
This one is definitely scary (don’t be fooled by the cute tiger on the cover), but is a beautiful and inspiring story of bravery and friendship, with a female protagonist to boot.
I’m Awake! by Maxwell Eaton III
Of course I love that this tiny hamster is waking Dad (break those gender stereotypes!), but also this book is straight up hilarious. Even an early bird like me has experienced so many exhausted mornings like this one, if on a slightly smaller chaos scale. It will be relatable to any parent, lark and owl alike.
The Insomniacs by Karina Wolf and the Brothers Hilts
Why can’t people be nocturnal, too??
Bedtime for Mommy by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and LeUyen Pham
This role-reversal bedtime book is so much FUN, like all of Rosenthal’s delightful children’s books. If, like the Asbys, Rosenthal’s books have been a periodic everyday part of your bedtime routine, and you haven’t read her NYTimes article “You May Want to Marry My Husband,” you absolutely should. Make sure you have tissues nearby.
More role-reversal hilarity in Sleepy the Goodnight Buddy by the fabulous Drew Daywalt and Scott Campbell
The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan and Tom Knight
Absolutely hilarious, and with a trickle of potty humor (see what I did there?) to delight your elementary-schooler.
Classic nighttime fun for your older child! Now in graphic novel form, too!
The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell is a much needed re-imagining of the classic fairy tale, with a strong female protagonist and stunning illustrations. This is classic Gaiman, though, and too dark for most young readers. Save this one for a much older child or even just yourself.
Happy reading and sweet dreams!