Books for Bedtime


We have a new kitten in the house and she’s been driving us crazy with her late night activity, when her energy peaks after snoozing away most of the day. I’ve been staying up with her until she tires herself out and goes to sleep, because otherwise she cries all night (and goes wandering, magically apparating outside of her locked cage), and then we ALL don’t get any sleep.

Two books have been keeping me company while trying to put Molly (as in Molly Hooper :D) to sleep: Margaret Wise Brown’s “Goodnight Songs” featuring various award-winning picture book illustrators, and Tahanan Book’s “Antukin: Philippine Folk Songs and Lullabies” selected by Felicidad A. Prudente, Ph.D. with illustrations by Joanne de Leon.


Filipino designer and illustrator Isabel “Pepper” Roxas sent over an advanced copy of “Goodnight Songs” from New York; her work features on the cover. Pepper has illustrated a long list of Filipino children’s books, including “Araw Sa Palengke” (“A Day at the Market”) by May Tobias Papa, which won the Philippine National Children’s Book Award in 2010. She also illustrated “The Case of the Missing Donut “ by Allison Mcghee (DIAL Books for Young Readers).

“Goodnight Songs” features the unpublished poems of American children’s book writer Margaret Wise Brown, whose “Goodnight Moon” has been a bedtime classic in the past half century. The poems are written in the same style as “Goodnight Moon,” with distinctive rhyme and rhythm, depicting subjects such as animals and objects in nature.

The introduction by Amy Gary, editor of the Margaret Wise Brown Estate, tells the story of how the book came to be. Twenty years ago, she discovered a treasure trove of unpublished works by Margaret Wise Brown. Towards the end of her life, the famed children’s book author was focused on writing songs for children.

“As she listened to children go about their lives, she realized that they made up songs about whatever it was they were doing at the time. She wanted to capture the spirit of a child’s world in her songs the way she had in stories. She thought if she could do that, perhaps children could retain that ability to express their thoughts in song, something that seems to disappear as we grow older,” Gary writes.

And while the book is a collection of poetry, the poems retain the storytelling quality of Margaret Wise Brown’s works, as the author considered story her paramount consideration in her writing:

One can but hope to make a child laugh or feel clear and happy-headed as he follows the simple rhythm to its logical end. It can jog him with the unexpected and comfort him with the familiar, lift him for a few minutes from his own problems of shoelaces that won’t tie, and busy parents and mysterious clock time, into the world of a bug or a bear or a bee or a boy living in the timeless world of a story. – Margaret Wise Brown

Hence, the poems featured in the book tell of a “noon balloon” (a cloud?) carrying “a bear, a crazy baboon, a monkey, a troll, and a tiny little mole” on a trip to the sun or the moon and lands far away; a Mambian melody that’s “soft as the song of a sleepy bee in a cloudy pink apple tree,” a “goat on the mountain” that “drank his little supper and drank his fill”; new ways to sleep (“like a rabbit,” “like a bear,” “like the old cat under the chair”); what happened “when the man in the moon was a little boy”; a baby sailing in the seven seas; animal secrets; a wooden town late at night; little animals (and a child) right before going to sleep; what one sees in the darkness behind closed eyes; soft sounds in the night; and a mouse’s prayer.

“Goodnight Songs” is also a visual spectacle, a rare collection of illustrations by a roster of celebrated names: Jonathan Bean, Carin Berger, Sophie Blackall, Linda Bleck, Renata Liwska (one of my recently discovered favorites!), Christopher SIlas Neal, Zachariah OHora, Eric Puybaret, Sean Qualls, Isabel Roxas (yay, Pepper!), Melissa Sweet, and Dan Yaccarino. The poems are illustrated in a variety of treatments, including retro-vintage, realistic, ethnic, whimsical, and graphic — you can get lost in the illustrations for hours!

The book is entitled “Goodnight Songs” as the poems have been set to music and performed by musicians Tom Proutt and Emily Gary, accompanied by an amazing range of instruments. I ‘ve been listening to the companion cd last night, enjoying the folksy beats and how the songs captured the feel of each poem in the melodies and the accompaniment. It’s a great mix — some are fast and relatively upbeat, while some are slow and languid — but all of them have the soothing quality to them, rightly so, as they’re bedtime songs (they even put me, the perennial night owl, to sleep!). “The Noon Balloon” and “Sleep like a Rabbit” are my personal favorites; they’re quite catchy and I find myself absentmindedly singing them at the oddest moments, hahaha!

Here’s a look at some of the spreads:

“Goodnight Songs” is launching this weekend in New York, so it may take a while before we get it out here in the Philippines.


Meanwhile, Filipinos can enjoy Tahanan Book’s “Antukin,” now out in a 15th anniversary edition, featuring a collection of 32 Philippine folk songs and lullabyes from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. There are the ever-popular tunes such as “Bahay Kubo,” “Magtanim Ay Di Biro,” “Leron-Leron Sinta,” “Penpen de Sarapen,” “Sitsiritsit,” and “Lubi-Lubi,” but more fascinating to me are the songs in the different languages (Kalingga, Ibaloi, Kapampangan, Bikol, Kuyunin, Aklanon, Visayan, Ilonggo (these, I can sing along to!), Cebuano, Waray, Maranao, Tiboli, and Maguindanaon) that showcase just how rich and diverse Filipino culture is (bonus: helpful reference for Buwan ng Wika, social studies homework, and music class). Each song has a corresponding English translation (or an explanation, for those with no available translation); sheet music (handy for the musically inclined); and lovely, lovely illustrations (some of which also feature in the notebooks in Tahanan’s stationery line), all in a beautifully-produced, spiral bound volume — all it needs is a companion cd (*hint, hint!*).


These bedtime books are definitely keepers for every child’s library, and a boon to harried parents putting their child(ren) to sleep.

They worked on Molly, I must say! :D


“Goodnight Songs,” advanced copy courtesy of Isabel Roxas (thanks, Pepper!), 5/5 stars

“Antukin,” review copy, 5/5 stars

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