The best picture books about night-time, getting to sleep, and… dragons

Caroline Pitcher Author Of The Winter Dragon
By Caroline Pitcher

Who am I?

Picture books are so important. They’re for everyone, not just young children, and often the readers are adult. Writing one is similar to writing a poem while watching the story in my imagination like a film. Usually I know the illustrator and can write to their strengths. Sophy Williams has drawn The Winter Dragon as an awesome creature who's also kind and protective. When I was seven, my teacher sent my stories to Enid Blyton who replied I must not be spoiled (shame!) and wouldn’t write once I was an adult. After making Dragons with children, I watched them bring their creature alive in their play. The Winter Dragon enlarges Rory’s imaginative world.


I wrote...

The Winter Dragon

By Caroline Pitcher, Sophy Williams (illustrator),

Book cover of The Winter Dragon

What is my book about?

The Winter Dragon is the best Dragon to help young Rory cope with winter’s darkness and night-time fears. The Dragon is homemade, yet magical. He comes alive to toast teacakes, warm bath water, and keep the dark at bay. He tells wonderful stories of ancient and mythical creatures, brilliant burning things, dinosaurs, rain dragons, elf-kings, and treasure hoards. He protects Rory with memories to wear like bright armour in the dark and see him safely through to the warmth and light of Spring.

Sophy Williams’s glowing pastel illustrations are both comforting and epic. I’ve read my book to many children. It encourages them to express any night-time worries, comforts them, and indulges their fascination with dragons. (Yes, there is a Welsh language edition.)

The books I picked & why

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The Park in the Dark

By Martin Waddell, Barbara Firth (illustrator),

Book cover of The Park in the Dark

Why this book?

My children loved The Park in the Dark by Martin Waddell, believing it was set in a park near our house. Now our grandchildren enjoy it too, There might or might not be scary things in the darkness, but 'me, and Loopy and Little Gee' are heroes who look after each other, swing, slide, dance, jump and chase all over the place, until the thing comes! (It’s a train….) 

The three race back to bed Where we ought to be, me and Loopy and Little Gee, safe as can be, all three. The gentle rhyming text comes to a happy conclusion and Barbara Firth’s delightful illustrations show us it’s three soft toys, not children, sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night.

The Park in the Dark

By Martin Waddell, Barbara Firth (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Park in the Dark as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A hugely endearing picture book from the makers of the Big Bear and Little Bear series. When the sun goes down and the moon comes up, the toy monkey and his friends, Loopy the elephant and Little Gee the dog, creep softly out of the bedroom, down the stairs and through the dark hall on their way to the deserted park. The park's an exciting place to be after dark, though a little bit scary - especially when the Thing (a night train) hurtles out of the darkness, seeming to chase them. Then the three friends run all the way…


Good-Night, Owl!

By Pat Hutchins,

Book cover of Good-Night, Owl!

Why this book?

One of the best books about someone desperate to sleep is Good-night, Owl! written and illustrated by Pat Hutchins. This is short and jolly, excellent for very young children, and there is a board book format available. The clear bright pictures are like mosaics.

Poor Owl, who has to sleep in the daytime, is constantly disturbed by bees buzzing, woodpeckers pecking, doves cooing and squirrels cracking nuts. These are refreshingly local creatures, not exotic zoo inmates. It’s a rhythmic, cumulative text which I often read to the young children I taught. They loved to join in with the noises, and act the story. There’s a surprise ending. You’ll love to see Owl get his own back!

Good-Night, Owl!

By Pat Hutchins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Good-Night, Owl! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Owl can't get to sleep in Pat Hutchins's beloved Good-Night, Owl!

How is Owl supposed to sleep the day away with the bees buzzing, the woodpecker pecking, the doves cooing, and the squirrels crunching? But when night falls and everything is finally quiet, suddenly there's a new sound-and it's coming from Owl!

From author-illustrator Pat Hutchins, this cumulative bedtime story with a surprise ending will send little ones off to sleep with a smile.


Peace at Last

By Jill Murphy,

Book cover of Peace at Last

Why this book?

One of the best books about getting a decent night’s sleep, for children and parents alike, is Jill Murphy’s Peace at Last, in her Bear Family series. Poor exhausted Mr. Bear is struggling with a dripping tap, a hooting owl, and a clicking clock as well as an excitable baby and a snoring wife. This is a warm and humorous story with charming pictures.

Peace at Last

By Jill Murphy,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Peace at Last as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jill Murphy's bestselling classic Peace at Last has delighted young children for almost forty years, and is equally beloved by tired parents who are all too familiar with the plight of poor Mr Bear.

With a snoring Mrs Bear, an excitable Baby Bear and a house full of tapping and dripping and ticking, peace is hard to come by - will Mr Bear ever get a decent night's sleep?

The familiar noises, repetition and beautiful illustrations make Jill Murphy's delightful Peace at Last an all-time favourite bedtime story with children and adults everywhere. This is a beautiful refreshed edition of…


The Wish Gatherers

By Karin Celestine, Tamsin Rosewell (illustrator),

Book cover of The Wish Gatherers

Why this book?

The night-time theme of wishing upon a star is dreamily presented in The Wish Gatherers, written by Karin Celestine, who also made and photographed the creature characters. A wishing star makes someone’s dream come true and is eventually collected by the Star Gatherer, then flown back up to the heavens by the beautiful Celestial Moths. Tamsin Rosewell painted the stunning backdrops of moonlight and starlight, and Joana Rodrigues created the combined images. Children will love the endearing creatures and adults will fall for this sumptuous picture book.

The Wish Gatherers

By Karin Celestine, Tamsin Rosewell (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Wish Gatherers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The year turns, harvest approaches, and the longer night skies fill with stars. And sometimes, just sometimes, maybe once in a thousand lifetimes, the star you see when you look up is a Wishing Star, one that can hear a wish and make a dream come true. But once its work is done, who is it that completes the cycle and returns it to the heavens?

One of a series of four seasonal stories based around British folklore. Includes notes on harvest traditions by Pamela Thom-Rowe.


How to Train Your Dragon

By Cressida Cowell,

Book cover of How to Train Your Dragon

Why this book?

Can’t get enough of Dragons…who can? Well, Cressida Cowell has written and illustrated a series of twelve books, beginning How to Train your Dragon about a smallish Viking with a longish name, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third, Hope and Heir to the Tribe of the Hairy Hooligans. His name alone gives you a flavour of the anarchic stories. The embossed covers are striking and the books are full of ridiculous names, silly drawings, raucous jokes, and serious child appeal. 

How to Train Your Dragon

By Cressida Cowell,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked How to Train Your Dragon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Read the HILARIOUS books that inspired the HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON films!

Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third is a smallish Viking with a longish name. Hiccup's father is chief of the Hairy Hooligan tribe which means Hiccup is the Hope and the Heir to the Hairy Hooligan throne - but most of the time Hiccup feels like a very ordinary boy, finding it hard to be a Hero.

In the first How to Train Your Dragon book Hiccup must lead ten novices in their initiation into the Hairy Hooligan Tribe. They have to train their dragons or be BANISHED…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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