With a gentle poem to lull the body to sleep and dreamlike illustrations, Night-night Body is a picture book meant to wind children down for bed.
This rhyming picture book makes its way from top to bottom—legs, tummy, lungs, neck—lovingly sending good night wishes to each body part. Nearly every stanza receives a full two-page spread of illustrations, and those illustrations depict children around the world preparing for bed or in the throes of sleep. The opening spread, for instance, shows a tumble of three siblings heading for a large mattress, Mount Fuji moonlit through a window; a few pages later, a blond child slumbers with the Eiffel tower glistening across a river and sports paraphernalia strewn across the bedroom floor.
“Day is over./ Off to bed,” begins the book, “Sleepy body. Sleepy head.” The sing-song rhyming meter feels familiar and comfortable, and the poem works like a focus exercise to guide readers to sleep by noticing and relaxing from toes to brain.
The illustrations complement this approach, as lovely, soft-focus watercolors make a tour of the world seem dreamlike itself. The sleepers have much in common: Stuffed animals and sports equipment feature prominently, as do pets of all kinds. In this way, the book seems to say that we have much more in common than not.
One illustration, however, may give pause: A girl with short black hair and bangs, holding a panda bear toy, is depicted with eyes so exaggeratedly crossed and slanted, it may offend Asian Americans used to seeing such images used against them. The illustration is especially jarring because while other illustrations trade in sometimes heavy-handed cultural clichés—a bagpiper inexplicably in the background to signify Scotland, a father in a fringed sombrero in Mexico—these don’t feel intended to offend.
This is an unfortunate misstep in an otherwise loving book. Overall, Night-night Body is a soothing bedtime tale parents and children alike are sure to appreciate.
Also available as an ebook.