27 Great Bedtime Stories
(That Aren't Goodnight Moon)
Grab your favorite pajamas and a book—it’s time for bed! Bedtime is one of the most universal experiences for young children, so it’s no surprise that there are countless picture books about sleeping and the bedtime experience. The books on this list are some of my favorites (though you’ll see I left off the classic Goodnight Moon in the interest of offering up some titles that may be new to you). All these books are in print and should be available from your local library or favorite bookstore. Those titles available from The Global Baby are linked.
Animals sleep in specific places—a turtle in its shell, a sloth on a tree, a mole in its hole—but babies can sleep anywhere. Lisa Wheeler’s simple, appealing rhyming text and Carolina Búzio’s colorful, graphic illustrations make this a fabulous bedtime book in the vein of the classic Time for Bed.
Lyrical, repetitive rhyming text tells the story of a bear who sleeps while an increasing number of animals takes refuge in his cave from the cold winter outside. When the bear finally wakes, all the animals that have come into his cave worry that he will be angry with them, but he’s just disappointed he missed the party. Jane Chapman’s animal illustrations are warm and charming, and children love to repeat the refrain “But the bear snores on” with you as you read. This is the first of ten Bear books.
The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan, illustrated by Tom Knight (2018)
In this absolutely hilarious picture book, a precocious little girl sits her father down to explain to him why she is kicking him out of the big bed, where she will continue to sleep with her mother. While adults will surely appreciate Bunmi Laditan’s wit even more than little ones, this is a wonderful story that will have the whole family laughing.
A Big Bed for Little Snow by Grace Lin (2019)
When Little Snow moves into his big, new, warm feather bed, his mommy warns him that the bed is for sleeping, not for jumping. But the bed is so puffy and bouncy that Little Snow just can’t resist. Each time he jumps, more of the feathers flutter out of the bed—until, by the end of winter, none is left. This is such an interesting, multilayered story—on one level, a simple bedtime story, and on another, a tale of the origin of snow. Grace Lin’s simple illustrations are stunning.
Dinosaur vs. Bedtime by Bob Shea (2008)
Part of the ever-popular Dinosaur vs. series, this book follows a little dinosaur through his day. Every obstacle he meets—a pile of leaves, talking grown-ups, toothbrushing—he conquers with a roar. But will he be victorious against bedtime?
Don’t Blink by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by David Roberts (2018)
In this delightful interactive picture book, the owl narrator explains that if you don’t get to the end of the book, you don’t have to go to bed. But every time you blink, you have to turn a page. Turns out it’s not that easy to keep from blinking. This book is lots of fun, and David Roberts’s illustrations of the owl trying desperately to keep his eyes open are just too funny.
Everybody Sleeps (But Not Fred) by Joseph Schneider (2015)
Every creature—from the jungle, to the farm, to the ocean—is asleep. But not a little boy named Fred. Fred is too busy with his lengthy to-do list to go to sleep. Joseph Schneider’s rollicking rhyming text and hilarious illustrations make this book a real bedtime treat.
Goodnight Already! by Jory John, illustrated by Benji Davies (2015)
Bear is oh-so-tired, but his friend Duck is wide awake and looking for some entertainment. Each time Bear is about to fall asleep, Duck shows up with a question or a request. Will Bear ever get to sleep? Benji Davies’s colorful illustrations are a perfect complement to Jory John’s funny dialogue.
Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld (2011)
Say goodnight to each of the big trucks at a construction site with Sherri Duskey Rinker’s energetic rhymes and Tom Lichtenheld’s expressive illustrations. This is sure to be a favorite with young construction lovers.
This beloved near-wordless picture book follows a zookeeper as he says goodnight to the animals in the zoo. A naughty gorilla follows behind, making mischief as he goes. Narrate the story with your child, look at the pictures, and wait for the giggles.
It’s bedtime in a rooftop community garden, and all of the veggies are slowly settling in for the night. Diana Murray’s rhyming text is lovely and soothing for a bedtime read-aloud, and Zachariah OHora’s vivid illustrations are fantastic, making all of the vegetables seem surprisingly cuddly and introducing a little earthworm friend who seems to be an ode to Richard Scarry’s beloved Lowly Worm.
In How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?, a series of gargantuan dinosaurs try all of the same tricks that little children do to avoid bedtime, while their diminutive human parents stand by patiently. Prolific children’s author Jane Yolen has crafted satisfying, playful rhymes that will have children giggling when combined with Mark Teague’s expressive illustrations.
Just Because by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Isabelle Arenault (2019)
A little girl delays bedtime by asking her patient father question after question—from “Why is the ocean blue?” to “What happened to the dinosaurs?” His creative answers prove to be fodder for her dreams when she finally falls asleep.
It might seem a little silly at first glance, but this first Llama Llama book is actually a touching story about the bedtime ritual, separation from parents, and the fears that whole process can unearth in little ones. The warm, often funny rhyming text and sweet illustrations of mother and child llama make this a comforting bedtime favorite. There is also an amazing Llama Llama song that you can find on YouTube if you’d like to sing the story.
Max and the Won’t Go to Bed Show by Mark Sperring, illustrated by Sarah Warburton (2014)
Max the Magnificent, a juvenile magician of sorts, proudly presents his most daring trick ever—putting off bedtime. Little ones will enjoy the colorful illustrations and Max’s many antics. Just be sure to read this amusing story in your best announcer voice.
The Napping House by Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood (1984)
In the Napping House, a granny; a little boy; a dog, cat, and mouse; and, finally, a flea pile into bed. This is a satisfying cumulative story with repetitive text, and the illustrations reveal lots of humorous details.
Nighttime Symphony by Timbaland, feat. Christopher Myers, illustrated by Christopher Myers and Kaa Illustration (2019)
A father soothes his young son, fearful of the storm outside his windows, by turning the storm’s sounds into a lullaby. This is a star-studded collaboration, with words by the musician Timbaland and award-winning children’s book author and illustrator Christopher Myers and illustrations by Myers and Vietnamese design studio Kaa Illustration. The result is a soothing story for a stormy night.
No More Naps by Chris Grabenstein, illustrated by Leo Espinosa (2020)
Young Annalise Devin McFleece will NOT take a nap, no matter what her parents do. Her father decides to take her for a walk in the park to try to make her sleepy. Of course, Annalise is still wide awake, but everyone around her decides that they would like naps, so before she knows it, she is the only one left awake. Will she ever fall asleep? Leo Espinosa’s illustrations are a wonderful complement to this silly story, charmingly depicting a diverse city and the lure of sleep.
No Sleep for the Sheep by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic (2011)
One very sleepy sheep is awakened again and again throughout the night by the other animals on his farm. No sooner has he gotten one to sleep, then another arrives and awakens him again. Karen Beaumont’s repetitive rhyming text is an absolute delight to read aloud, and Jackie Urbanovic perfectly captures the poor sheep’s growing frustration and fatigue.
The Perfect Siesta by Pato Mena (2016)
In the jungle, a group of animals is lured to sleep by the cool breeze, leaving no one but sleepy sloth to wake up the others. The colorful graphic illustrations complement this silly story of a sloth struggling to stay awake.
Queen Panda Can’t Sleep by Susanna Isern, illustrated by Mariana Ruiz Johnson (2016)
Queen Panda can’t fall asleep, and she’s making everyone in her palace miserable, too. Finally, her royal advisor sends out a decree offering a bag of pearls to anyone who can make Queen Panda fall asleep. Visitors come from all over the world, but none of their approaches works—until an Egyptian puts all the palace servants to sleep, leaving the queen to take over their work. This charming fable is colorfully illustrated.
Race You to Bed by Bob Shea (2010)
A fuzzy little rabbit continually declares that he is going to beat the reader to bed. While the rabbit’s path to bed is silly and rather circuitous, he eventually leads young readers to sleep—after some inevitable giggles.
Sweet Dreams, Zaza by Mylo Freeman (2019)
Before she goes to bed, little Zaza must wish all of her animal friends goodnight. This is a simple, sweet bedtime story with colorful illustrations—perfect for toddlers.
A little girl and her father begin their nightly countdown to bedtime with “ten small toes” and conclude with “one little sleepyhead.” This gentle bedtime story, a Caldecott Honor winner, is the perfect addition to your own nightly ritual.
Parents and children of all species get ready for bed in this quiet, comforting story. This is, in my opinion, the perfect bedtime book for children of all ages. The rhyming text is soothing, and the illustrations are lovely.
Touch the Brightest Star by Christie Matheson (2015)
In this interactive picture book, readers are asked to press the lightning bug, blink their eyes, whisper, and more as day turns to night. Christie Matheson is also the author and illustrator of the delightful Tap the Magic Tree (2013).
Will You Help Me Fall Asleep? by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant (2018)
A little frog is desperate to get to sleep so that he can compete in the boat races the next day, so he begs the reader for some suggestions. Nothing seems to be working, however, until he takes his teacher’s advice to go to his happy place.