animals, book list

Book List: Nighttime Animals

Nighttime is a fascinating thing for many children. It happens when they are asleep, and we all remember wondering what happened when the lights went out. Children are also fascinated with animals, watching them in their natural habitats and seeing how they survive. Nighttime animals are some of the most interesting and show us that even though the sun has gone down, much is happening under the cover of night.

Flashlight (Chronicle Books)
Written & Illustrated by Lizi Boyd

For ages: 2-5
Some books are made to be studied for hours by children. Those were the kind of books I was drawn to as a child. Flashlight is just that sort of book, wordlessly following a child as they explore the forest at night with their flashlight. Every page is a vast sea of black accentuated by silvery line drawings of moonlit animals and plants. The child’s flashlight produces a cone of light, giving greater detail and more color to its focus. However, so much is happening in the darkness that the child can’t see, but the reader will. Lizi Boyd makes sure nighttime isn’t a scary place but an exciting world that most children miss out on because they are sleeping. Interesting details abound that could serve as an excellent jumping-off point for children to invent their own narratives as they read.

Night Animals (Viking Books for Young Readers)
Written & Illustrated by Gianna Marino

For ages: 3-8
Despite being a nocturnal animal, Possum is scared of the dark. Unfortunately, he’s not the only one, and his tree hole home becomes cramped very quickly. He’s joined by Skunk, Wolf, and Bear, each of whom accidentally scares the previous inhabitants. While young readers learn some facts about these animals, they are also treated to a silly slapstick story about animals becoming irrationally scared of the night. It takes Bat to explain to them that they are all nocturnal and should be comfortable at night. Gianna Marino provides hilarious, expressive illustrations with her work that remind us of a wonderful animated film. This could be an excellent book for the child who is frightened of the dark but loves to laugh, a way to help them find the lighter side of nighttime.

Bats in the Library (HMH Books for Young Readers)
Written & Illustrated by Brian Lies

For ages: 3-8
Brian Lies is one of the great modern illustrators alongside some of my other faves like David Wiesner and Adam Rubin. A colony of bats finds a new home at a small-town public library. When the building closes for the night, the bats come out to play. At first, the flying mammals are bored and start playing with the photocopier or swinging around on a reading lamp. However, things change when they discover the stories, and they become more engaged. We glimpse The Cheshire Bat and Winnie the Bat, to name just a few, as they get caught up in the stacks. Lies does a fantastic job illustrating the library as an exciting & mysterious place, cloaked in shadows that encourage the bats to explore.

I’m Not Sleepy (Little Tiger Press)
Written & Illustrated by Jane Chapman

For ages: 3-8
Kids desperately want to stay up, and if you are a parent/guardian who has ever had to deal with a child unwilling to lay down for the night, you know the struggle. Grandma Owl is trying to put her grand-owlet Mo to sleep. Mo wants to play, but Grandma reminds him it’s time to rest. The back and forth continues until a compromise is made. Mo will be responsible for putting Grandma to bed, and he stays up playing once she’s sleeping. Mo quickly learns how hard it is to be a parent and put someone to bed who doesn’t want to. As Mo deals with making a nest, preparing a snack, and everything else on his plate, he finds himself getting sleepier and sleepier…

Secret Pizza Party (Dial Books)
Written by Adam Rubin
Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

For ages: 3-8
Dragons may love tacos, but this raccoon protagonist craves a big slice of pizza. He salivates thinking about the gooey cheese, salty pepperoni, sweet sauce, and crispy crust. However, because he is a raccoon, humans don’t want to share their pizza with him. They see him as a pest! Can you imagine such a thing? So the raccoon dons a trenchcoat and fedora with plans to have a secret pizza party where he can enjoy this delicious food without judgment. Unfortunately, Greediness gets the best of him. Before beginning his private pizza party, he notices a masquerade ball next door. The black fur around his eyes would help him fit right in. And they are serving pizza at this ball! How could he resist! I’m sure you can infer how this all ends. It’s another wonderful humorous tale from a mind that feels perfect for our current era.

Daytime/Nighttime: All Through The Year (Dawn Publications)
Written by Diane Lang
Illustrated by Andrea Gabriel

For ages: 4-9
Told in rhyme and spanning all twelve months, this excellent book introduces students to the yearly cycle of life. Each double-page spread presents a month of the year and what animals would be out and about during the day and night. There is an excellent variety of animals portrayed in the paintings of Andrea Gabriel, from coyotes to lizards to squirrels, snails, and more. A fair variety of habitats are shown, but most are deciduous forests with deserts and wetlands thrown in along the way. Unfortunately, the rhyme structure of the book leaves a bit to be desired, which makes it a not quite perfect read-aloud. However, it does provide so much general information and helps to contrast what animal activities are happening when we are awake and asleep.

Owl Moon (Philomel Books)
Written by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by John Schoenherr

For ages: 4-9
One of the best reads for a cold winter night, which shouldn’t be surprising for anyone familiar with Jane Yolen. The text keeps things simple but is done with such precision you’re immediately transported to this special night. A father and his child have gone out to find an owl. They trudge through the snow taking in the mysterious landscape covered in freshly fallen snow. They encounter other animals in brief sightings along the way and mistake a few for the elusive owl they seek. John Schoenherr’s watercolor illustrations could not be more ideally suited for the book. This is the sort of book that implores you to read it in a hushed whisper, bundled under blankets with your favorite young reader.

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