Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear?

Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear? By Martin Waddell and Barbara Firth, 1988.

Big Bear and Little Bear live in their Bear Cave.  (Big Bear is apparently the father of Little Bear, but they don’t call him that.)  After Big Bear puts Little Bear to bed at night, Little Bear has trouble sleeping.  Little Bear says that he can’t sleep because he’s afraid of the dark.

Big Bear gives Little Bear a lantern, but that doesn’t work.  Little Bear says that the lantern isn’t big enough.  Big Bear tries to bring two larger lanterns, but neither of those helps, either.

Little Bear says that the dark beyond the cave bothers him.  To prove to Little Bear that the darkness outside isn’t scary, Big Bear takes him outside.

Outside, he shows Little Bear the moon and the stars, so he’ll know that it’s not completely dark.  Little Bear falls asleep in Big Bear’s arms.

This is one of those cute bedtime stories that can help to reassure young children at bedtime. It’s just a nice, cozy, bedtime story. Because the bears appear to be father and son, it also makes a nice father/son story.

The book is currently available online through Internet Archive.

Old Bear

Old Bear by Jane Hissey, 1986.

A group of stuffed animals remember that an old friend of theirs, Old Bear, was put up in the attic because he was an old toy and the children of the house were too rough with him.  The other stuffed animals miss him and worry that the humans in the house have forgotten about him, so they try to think of a way to get him out of the attic.

The problem is that the entrance to the attic is in the ceiling, high above their heads.  The stuffed animals try various tricks to get up to the attic, from building a tall tower of blocks to jumping on the bed.

Eventually, they are successful when they use a toy airplane.  After Little Bear finds Old Bear in the attic, they use parachutes made of handkerchiefs to parachute back into the playroom to rejoin the other stuffed animals.

Old Bear says that he spent most of his time in the attic sleeping, but he is glad to be back with his friends.

One of the things that I like about this book is the detailed pictures.  The stuffed animal’s schemes to reach the attic are also fun and clever.

The book is part of a series. It is currently available online through Internet Archive. (To borrow a book through Internet Archive, you have to sign up for an account, but it’s free, and then you read the book in your browser window.)

Happy Birthday, Moon

Happy Birthday, Moon by Frank Asch, 1982.

Bear really loves the moon and decides that he would like to give the moon a birthday present.  The problem is that he doesn’t know when the moon’s birthday is.  He tries asking it, but it doesn’t answer.

Deciding that he needs to get closer to the moon to talk to it, Bear goes to the mountains to ask the moon when its birthday is.  In the mountain, Bear hears his own echo and thinks that it is the moon answering him.  When Bear tells the moon that his birthday is tomorrow, the “moon” replies that its birthday is tomorrow.  Bear is pleased, especially when the moon echoes his wish for a hat for its birthday.

Bear buys the moon a hat and puts it on top of the moon by putting it in a tree.  The following morning, the hat is on Bear’s doorstep, and Bear accepts it as the moon’s present to him.

When the wind blows poor Bear’s hat away, Bear goes to the mountains again to apologize to the moon for losing the hat.  It’s okay, though, because Bear and the moon still love each other.

Bear never realizes that what he’s hearing is his own echo.  It’s sweet although somewhat silly.  If you wonder what happened to the hat in the end, it’s shown on the back cover of the book, holding a bird’s nest.

The book is currently available online through Internet Archive. (When you borrow a book from Internet Archive, you have to set up an account, but it’s free.)


Owly by Mike Thaler, 1982.

Owly is a curious young owl.  He is always asking his mother questions, like how many stars there are in the sky or how high the sky is.

Owl’s mother tells him to go and see these things for himself, but there are too many stars in the sky to count, and he can’t fly high enough to reach the sky.

The story continues with Owly’s questions and attempts to find the answers, but all of his questions are unanswerable because they involve amounts too big to count or measure.

In the end, Owly and his mother talk about how much they love each other, and they compare it to the number of stars in the sky and the other things that couldn’t be counted or measured.

This is one of those children’s books where the story leads up to how much the parent loves the child (and vice versa). I’ve seen other books where the author sets up a cute way to talk about how much parents love their children, and sometimes, the set up is pretty obvious in this type of story. However, the message is still sweet, and this gentle story might make nice, calming bedtime reading. The pictures are as gentle and calm as the story itself.

The book is currently available on Internet Archive.

No One Noticed Ralph

No One Noticed Ralph by Bonnie Bishop, 1979.

Ralph is a parrot, living in an apartment with Mr. and Mrs. Muggs.  Ralph can whistle and talk, and he likes doing it because he enjoys the attention he gets from people when he does it.

He has certain times when he whistles, like when he wakes up Mr. and Mrs. Muggs in the morning, and certain words he says to get treats.  Sometimes, in the evenings, Mr. and Mrs. Muggs will light a fire in the fireplace and make popcorn, so Ralph will say, “Fire!” to remind them.

Ralph gets lonely when Mr. and Mrs. Muggs leave for work, and one day, he notices that they’ve left a window open.  He decides to fly outside and look for people to give him attention.

When he reaches the street, there are plenty of people, but they don’t pay attention to Ralph.  He tries whistling and using words he knows.  It has an effect on the people around him, but not what Ralph expects, and still no one notices him.

Then, Ralph sees an apartment on fire, and says, “Fire!”  It makes a man nearby notice the fire and call the fire department. The man who called the fire department realizes that Ralph is the one who yelled “Fire!” and calls him a hero.  Finally, Ralph gets attention!

Mr. and Mrs. Muggs return home to see everyone with Ralph and hear the story about how he became a hero.  Ralph is rewarded with a ride on the fire truck, his picture in the paper, and a lifetime supply of sesame seed crackers but it’s the attention he loves most.

I love this picture book and thought it was funny when I was a kid, when I had a pet bird myself.

Johnny and the Birds

Johnny and the Birds by Ian Munn, illustrated by Elizabeth Webbe, 1950.

This cute little picture book is a collection of short stories about a little boy named Johnny and his adventures with wild birds. The stories are very short and are meant to teach children about wild birds.

Johnny and the Catbird – Johnny thinks that he hears a kitten while looking for strawberries, but it’s actually the sound made by a catbird.

The Blue Jays – Father Blue Jay scares a hawk away from his nest.

The Robins – Johnny knows that the Robin eggs have hatched when he sees the bits of blue eggshell under the tree where they live.

The Chickadees – The Chickadees don’t fly south during the winter like other birds, but Johnny’s family helps them when it’s snowing and they need something to eat.

The Crows – Johnny finds a baby Crow out of its nest. Apparently, it’s an orphan, and Johnny fears that it might get eaten by a hawk, so he takes it home and takes care of it. It becomes a pet, and he names it Blackey.

The Mystery of King Karfu

The Mystery of King Karfu by Doug Cushman, 1996.

Seymour Sleuth, an Australian wombat living in London, introduces himself as “the greatest detective in the world.”  His friend, Abbott Muggs, a mouse, is a photographer who assists him in his cases and documents them.  When the story begins, Seymour receives a telegram from his friend Professor Slagbottom, who is working on an archaeological site in Egypt.  Someone has stolen one of their finds, the Stone Chicken of King Karfu, and he needs Seymour’s help to find it!  Seymour and Muggs head for Egypt!

King Karfu was a wealthy pharaoh and a wonderful cook, and the Stone Chicken may provide clues about the Lost Treasure of King Karfu, the nature of which is unknown.  When they reach the dig in Egypt, Professor Slagbottom explains that he was researching a message in code on the outside of the Chicken when it was stolen.  The suspects are the other people on the dig, who may be trying to steal King Karfu’s Treasure.

Seymour interviews the suspects one at a time and considers their connection to clues found at the scene of the crime.  As an adult, I figured out who the culprit was pretty quickly, but for the benefit of child readers, Seymour provides notes about the clues and suspects to help them understand the connections. The pictures in the story also provide important clues.  After Professor Slagbottom’s decoder is stolen, Seymour realizes who the thief is.

After they get the Stone Chicken back, readers can use the decoder provided to solve the code and learn where the Treasure is.  It turns out that the Treasure is actually a recipe, written in the same substitution code – for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!

I always like mysteries that involve codes and puzzles, and this cute animal mystery would be fun and challenging for young kids.  With the key provided, it would be a good introduction to substitution codes for kids who have never seen them.  There is one other book with Seymour Sleuth, The Mystery of the Monkey’s Maze.  The author, Doug Cushman, is also the author of the Aunt Eater Mysteries.

The book is currently available online through Internet Archive.

I Like Things

I Like Things by Margaret Hillert, illustrated by Lois Axeman, 1982.

This is a cute little picture book about the fun of collecting things.  A young girl talks about the things that she collects and why she likes them.

She enjoys collecting all kinds of things with different shapes, sizes, and colors.  Sometimes, she likes to sort the things in her collections, like buttons, by color or size.

Sometimes, her father helps her with her stamp collection.  She also likes to find seashells and rocks at the beach.  Sometimes, she and her friend trade sports cards from their collections.

At the end of the story, the girl asks readers what kinds of things they like, so adults can use the story to get kids to talk about what they like to collect.

I thought it was interesting how the girl put one of the bigger rocks in her collection into a jar that was partly full of water so that the water would act as a magnifier, making the rock look bigger.

One thing I noticed is that the girl never refers to the objects in her collections by name.  Mostly, she just talks about what she does with them using very simple words.  I think that’s to make the book easier for younger children.  There is a word list in the back of the book of all of the words used in the story, and there are only 64 different words.

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters


Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe, 1987.

This story, based on an African folktale, is somewhat similar to other folktales and fairy tales from other parts of the world such as Cinderella, Mother Holle, and Vasilisa the Beautiful, where a girl with a kind, hard-working nature triumphs over a mean sibling because someone in authority recognizes her good nature and rewards it.

In a small village in Africa, a man named Mufaro has two daughters, Manyara and Nyasha.  Both girls are beautiful, strong, and clever, but they have very different natures.  Nyasha is kind, gentle, and patient.  Manyara is bad-tempered, jealous, and self-centered.  She frequently taunts Nyasha about how, one day, she will be the queen and her sister will be her servant.  When Nyasha asks her why she is so mean, Manyara says that she hates the way people praise Nyasha for her kindness.  She thinks that Nyasha is their father’s favorite child, and she wants to prove that Nyasha’s “silly kindness is only weakness.”


Since there is nothing that Nyasha can do to change her sister’s mind or attitude, she just continues doing her usual chores and being kind to people and animals.  In particular, she makes friends with a small garden snake, knowing that his presence in her garden will keep away pests.

Manyara is sneaky and always behaves herself when their father is present, so Mufaro doesn’t know about the troubles between his daughters.  When a messenger arrives, saying that the Great King is seeking a wife and that beautiful, worthy girls are summoned to his city so that he can choose from among them, Mufaro is proud and eager to present both of his beautiful daughters.  Manyara tries to persuade her father to send only her, but Mufaro is firm that both girls must present themselves for the king’s decision.

Manyara decides that the only way to get the better of her sister is to be the first to arrive and present herself to the king, so she slips out in the middle of the night and begins the journey alone.  However, both the journey and the king are not what Manyara thinks they are.  Along the way, Manyara encounters various strange characters who ask for help or offer advice, but thinking that a queen doesn’t need to pay attention to others or do anything she doesn’t want to, Manyara ignores them all.

Nyasha, on the other hand, gets ready to leave at the appointed time in the morning.  Everyone worries about Manyara but decides that the best thing to do is to follow her to the city, since she seems to have gone on ahead.  As Nyasha travels with the rest of their friends and family, she listens to the people Manyara ignored and shows them kindness.


When they finally reach the city, Nyasha encounters a terrified Manyara, who hysterically insists that when she went to meet the king, she found a horrible monster instead.  However, like everything else, it’s just another part of the test, and Nyasha is the one who passes because she, like her sister, has actually met the king before, but unlike her sister, she actually paid attention to him.


The pictures in the book are beautiful and colorful.  A note in the front of the book says that the buildings in the illustrations were based on an ancient city in Zimbabwe that is now ruins.  The note in the book also explains that the names of the characters in the story come from the Shona language.  The meanings of the names are clues to the characters’ natures.  Manyara means “ashamed”, and Nyasha means “mercy.”

The book is a Caldecott Honor Book.  It is currently available online through Internet Archive.


The Goggles


The Goggles by Ezra Jack Keats, 1969.

Peter and his best friend, Archie, live in a big city (probably New York City), and they often play in empty lots between the apartment buildings.  One day, Peter and Archie are playing in a lot filled with old, discarded junk, when Peter finds a special prize: a pair of motorcycle goggles!


The boys have fun playing with the goggles, but then they’re spotted by a gang of bigger boys.  The bigger boys try to make Peter give them the goggles, one of them even knocking him to the ground when he attempts to take them.


Peter’s dog, Willie, runs off with the goggles, and the boys split up to get away from the bullies, meeting back at their “hideout” in the vacant lot.


However, the big boys are still looking for Willie and the goggles.  What can Peter and Archie do to get rid of them?