Our Bookshelf: Sleepy time books

My children are getting older now, the oldest is now in his last year of middle school, and the youngest in her last elementary grade, however we all still enjoy a good picture book. I, as an illustrator, especially relish them.

Over the years we collected some favoritesthat were a part of our bedtime ritual for many years. A couple of new ones joined the “sleepytime pile” lately. I want to share them today.

Sleepytime books

  1. The Man in the Moon by William Joyce– beautiful story, stunning artwork, this one is one of the longer books we have. Children always adored it and moved on to The Guardians of the Childhood series when they got older.
  2. When the Sky is Like Lace by Elinor Lander Horwitz and illustrated by Barbara Cooney, this book is absolutely magical, calm blues and grays and sandy yellows of whimsical illustrations always left an impression. We still are on the lookout for lacy sky and quote this book when it is.
  3. If Your Monster Won’t Go to Bed by Denise Vega, illustrated by Zachariah Ohora- this is the latest addition to our collection. It’s a playful and hilarious recipe for putting a monster to bed. It is not so much of a calming book, but definitely a favorite already.
  4. Sleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski– this is an absolutely brilliant book, especially for reluctant sleepers, illustrations are magical with delightful textures and details.
  5. Once upon a cloud by Claire Keane– this is not so much of a direct sleepytime book, but sweet color palette and calm dream-like text is a winning combination for a bedtime read
  6. Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Berger is another classic and is a huge favorite we followed the process of winding down and welcoming a good night’s rest along with Grandfather Twilight and his companions.
  7. A Poem for Every Night of the Year edited by Allie Esiri is a delightful collection the older kids would appreciate, we so enjoy completing our day with a poem and maybe even a short discussion.
  8. I Don’t Want to Go to Bed by Astrid Lindgren and illustrated by Ilon Wikland, this book is another longer read as we follow a little boy that doesn’t want to go to bed but has a chance to peek at  forest animals’ getting ready for bed through the neighbor lady’s magical glasses. Illustrations are absolutely adorable.
  9. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star by Jerry Pinkney– this is one of the most gorgeous books that we own. Little chipmunk has an adventure and finally settles in for the night.




October Reads

What my children read in October:

Sunflowerous Reads

D., 10 y.o., Grade 5

In English:

  • Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; The Horse and His Boy, Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis


  • The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo


  • Tales of Ancient Egypt


  • Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver


  • Toys!: Amazing Stories Behind Some Great Inventions by Don Wulffson


In Russian:

  • Павел Бажов: Малахитовая Шкатулка, Медной Горы Хозяйка, Каменный Цветок
  • Лучано Мальмузи: Неандертальский мальчик– все три книги

Plus tons and tons of re-reads. And everything Star Wars.

C., 6 y.o., Grade 1-2:

In English:

  • If You Want to See a Whale by Julie Gogliano, ill. by Erin G. Steadif you want to see a whale
  • The Mischevians by William Joyce


  • Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood


  • Autumn: An Alphabet Acrostic by Steven Schnur


In Russian:

  • Борис Заходер: Серая Звёздочка
  • Евгений Шварц: Новые Приключения Кота в Сапогах
  • Маури Куннас: Викинги Идут!
  • А. Куприн: Слон

And again, lots of re-reads.

Once again, a pretty good month. Children read a lot and most importatly shared what they’ve read with each other. Love to see them getting each other excited for new books.

September Reads

September is over, more than 10% of our school year is done (am I not the optimist :D). Today I just want to write down what children read throughout the month, to keep track mostly.

Sunflowerous Reads


In English:

  • Rudyard Kipling “The Jungle Book”
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  • Skelling by David Almond
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • Wildwood Imperium by Colin Meloy
  • How to Break a Dragon’s Heart by Cressida Cowell

In Russian:

  • Галина Демыкина “Мой капитан”
  • Э. Сеттон-Томпсон “Винипегский волк”, “Мустанг-иноходец”
  • Ж. Реми-мл. “Битва за огонь. Пещерный Лев”

Plus re-reads that I couldn’t possibly keep track of

C. read

In English:

  • Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo
  • Captain Cat by Inga Moore
  • Arrietty (from Studio Ghibli Picture Book series)
  • The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore by William Joyce
  • Room on Broom by Julia Donaldson
  • Whale Shines: An Artistic Tale by Fiona Robinson
  • Together we are reading (taking turns) Appleblossom the Possum by Holly Goldberg Sloan

In Russian

  • “Минус и Большой Мир” Свен Нурдквист
  • “Серая Шейка” Д.Н. Мамин-Сибиряк
  • сборник “Волшебное Слово”
  • Басни Крылова
  • Аля, Кляксич и Буква “А” Ирина Токмакова
  • Вместе : “Мы живем в каменном веке” (Пешком в историю)

And again, lots of re-reads I didn’t write down

also we read Haiku Books

What have I noticed this month:

D. absolutely insists we wait for him for read-alouds, no picture book is too simple or too childish. I am really glad he cares still. I have made a resolution to have D. read at least one “classic” and one “award” book per month, but still let him have his way with series that he enjoys. All of these work out. The most re-read book for him was Harry Potter, that is his nightstand series of choice. There doesn’t seem to be a non-fiction in my records, but I am sure he read something…will ask him tomorrow morning.

C. is a confident and independent reader, she likes comic books a lot, much more than D. I do wish we had more time for read-alouds. This will be next month’s goal.


End of August/September is a special time. Time of transition from summer to autumn, time when the cricket outside our window sings with all its might, time when the weather changes five times a day, time of shadows getting longer and sun changing angle, so the golden light lasts well into the morning. Time of the nights getting chillier, time of asking ourselves whether we should get our comforters out or maybe we can get by for another week or two. Time of longing for a season that is to come and time for saying goodbye to summer with its delights. In other words – a haiku time!

We had a good haiku week in Sunflowerous House:

learning about haiku1. We read haiku books:

Hi, Koo: A Year of Seasons by John J. Muth, absolute delight– soft and sweet illustrations, quiet thoughtful poems

Hi Koo

Don’t Step on The Sky: A Handful of Haiku by Miriam Chaikin, illustrated by Hiroe Nakata a lovely collection of poems, mostly summer theme so it brought to mind memories that are still fresh

don't step on the sky

Cool Melons–Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa by Matthew Gollub, illustrated by Kazuko G. Stone, a book about great haiku master Issa, his life story and poems

cool melons turn to frogs

The Year Comes Round: Haiku Through the Seasons by Sid Farrar, illustrated by Ilse Plume, another wonderful collection, with a few poems dedicated to each season

a year comes round

2. Haiku are amazing because they are an embodiment of mindfulness,  each moment so wonderfully concentrated. The task I gave to kids first was to go outside and carefully observe the world around them. They brought back the news of first fallen leaves, of a stray cat sneaking into the grass, of a toy forgotten in the middle of the lawn, that there are fewer bees comparing to a month ago…

D. then sat down and write a couple of haiku of his own

D' s haiku 5th grade

3. We learned about haiga (an artwork based on a haiku) and looked at some beautiful haiga paintings in The Art of Haiku book, there is a video too

art of haiku

(Long but interesting article on haiga can be found here). Then I asked kids to either make a haiku or pick a favorite one from a book and illustrate it. Both made their own:

C's haiga

C’s haiga
“Beautiful and Purple Flower”

D's Bees fly over bush Basking in the sun An early sunset.

Bees fly over bush
Basking in the sun
An early sunset.

I chose to illustrate a poem by Kodoujin

kodoujin three drops art

We are going to continue reading and writing haiku, it is a wonderful exercise in mindfulness, a great reason to pause and look around, it is one of the most relaxing poetry forms to me

Favorite books in addition to The Art of Haiku mentioned above:

The Classic Tradition of Haiku: An Anthology, this book was a great find, it has most famous haiku, as well as less known, notes on poets and Japanese versions in romaji included.

the classic tradition of haiku

Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years is another book I love to read by myself and aloud

haiku in english

When I think about visual equivalent of haiku– how a mundane moment becomes a beautiful art, Makoto Shinkai’s work comes to mind immediately, so when I am in my “haiku mood” I love to rewatch

5 centimeters per second


The Garden of Words

Mama’s Comfort Book Pile

Today I  finished “The Danish Way of Parenting: A Guide To Raising The Happiest Kids in the World” by Jessica Alexander, Iben Sandhal (the website)  I love reading about different cultural approaches to child-rearing. The book was good overall, it didn’t go into depth about practical methods, but I agree with all the main points. The idea of hygge (“getting cosy together”) and authenticity appealed to me the most.

I thought why not share a  comforting pile that is always, always by my bed:

1. Buddhism for Mothers by Sarah Naphtali– wonderful book that came to me in just the right time, literally fell into my hands from the shelf where it sat forgotten after I grabbed it at the library.  sale. Such simple, such obvious method (when I thought about it) to be a calmer, more present parent. A gentle reminder of acceptance and compassion.

2.Mary Oliver’s poems. What concentrated amazingness,  love for nature, the ability to observe and notice things. Her poems, even the sad ones are always a comfort. I often recite “The Lamps” to myself when I light the candles in my kitchen. And the final verse of The Buddha’s Last Instruction always touches my heart:

And then I feel the sun itself

       as it blazes over the hills,

       like a million flowers on fire–

       clearly, I’m not needed,

       yet I feel myself turning 

       into something of inexplicable value…

There are so many poems that have little pencil hearts next to the title. Just Beauty. Check out lovely article about Mary Oliver on Brainpickings too.

3. Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Indeed this year is the year of book magic. Another spontaneous buy and what a delight. And in such a right time too. Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote this book over 50 years ago, yet every word rings true. It made me think a lot about self care, if “me time” I have is really for me, it made me think of overall health of the relationships I have with the world and my loved ones. Wonderful book.

4. The Abundant Mama’s Guide to Savoring Slow by Shawn Fink of Abundant Mama Project. It is the newest addition to my comfort pile and I absolutely love it. Many important things that are obvious but so often forgotten in the daily turmoil are brought up. The author suggests this book should be read in monthly chunks to give one time to implement the way of embracing life and make these simple changes a habit.

5. A Year of Mornings from 3191 miles apart team, a wonderful collection of diptychs showing simple pieces of everyday life throughout the year. I keep it next to my bed as a reminder to see magic in the most ordinary of moments.

6. Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One with the Universe by Yumi Sakugawa, bough for the art, kept for wonderful ispirations for meditation. I am not the type to read a lot of self-help books (even when I know I should), and this one sums up the important points and illustrations help to visualise the whole thing.

So here they are, my little “mama’s comfort” stack, all of these books made a difference in my perception of motherhood and who I am as a person overall. Please share your favorite “mama reads”, I would love to find new fascinating reads.

BOOK PILE: Books About Dragons

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Today is Appreciate a Dragon Day! Which for us is about to turn into an Appreciate a Dragon Weekend. First, please take a look at our Books about  Dragons Pile:


1) Where’s the Dragon by Jason and Richard Hook. This is one of the most beloved books by my little C., it’s a funny story about a boy and his grandpa who go looking for dragons. A child looks for dragons in a landscape, and there are so many of these!

Where's the dragon

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BOOK PILE: Pop-Up Books

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Pop-Up books are just great, aren’t they. These books are true treasures, the craftsmanship is amazing, and although fragile, they provide many opportunities for entertainment and joy.

Here is our little list of Pop-Up Books that we love:

pop up books

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