15 Authors Share Their All-Time Favorite Bedtime Stories for Kids

by the Brightly Editors

We asked 15 awesome authors about the best bedtime reads they have shared with their children or remember from their own childhoods. They all seem to agree on one thing: Bedtime reading has played a huge role in their lives. Read on for all of their kids’ book recommendations!


rosie-revere-engineer“I’ve read Andrea Beaty’s Rosie Revere, Engineer to my granddaughter Jordan maybe a hundred times now, and it never gets old — for either of us. Young Rosie is a terrific character who learns the importance of imagination, inventiveness, courage, and even making the occasional mistake. I tell Jordan that all girls, just like her and Rosie, can indeed achieve anything they want when they put their minds to it. My little Jordan loves to hear that and to reread Rosie’s story, which is inspirational and charming without any heavy-handedness. The accompanying illustrations by David Roberts are adorable, and now my second granddaughter, Chloe, is beginning to enjoy it with us too.”
—Lesley Stahl, author of Becoming Grandma: The Joys and Science of the New Grandparenting (on sale April 5, 2016)

“First, Along a Long Road, by Frank Viva. This picture book about a cyclist on a long ride has a simple, pleasing rhyme and beguiling illustrations — I found along-a-long-roadmyself creating a melody for the words and singing the story to my four children, who were quite hypnotized. I must have read that book five hundred times to them. Second, That’s How!, by Christoph Niemann. A girl asks a boy how various things work — a train, a plane, a ship, etc. His explanations, brilliantly illustrated, involve various animals madly running about or flapping their wings inside each machine. It’s funny, bursting with imagination — and the boy gets his comeuppance at the end from the clever girl … I enjoy exploring longer books with my older children, too. The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis, for example. I’m on the second volume right now — The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. We thrill at its sense of adventure. I would love to read Watership Down, by Richard Adams, to them. And the second volume of Harry Potter. But soon, too soon, they will be reading on their own…”
—Yann Martel, author of The High Mountains of Portugal and Life of Pi

“When our son was little, we read many different picture books each week, but there were some we’d return to again and again. Fireman Small, fireman-smallby Wong Herbert Yee, was one of these. Beyond its compelling story line — daring rescues, speedy fire trucks, interspecies friendships — the jaunty rhymes and lively refrains are just plain fun to read. Plus it ends with our hero fast asleep — a scene that, as a parent, you always hope will induce sleepiness in your child. Years later, we still find ourselves repeating phrases from the book — a sure sign of a family classic.”
—Linda Ashman, author of Rock-a-Bye Romp

“The hard part about reading to older children is that they have opinions. My boys (twelve, eleven, eight, and seven years old) all have varying tastes these days. Their nightstands are littered with everything from The Maze Runner to Llama Llama Red Pajama, so finding a read-aloud that The-Westing-Gameappeals to all of them is virtually impossible. Which is why I don’t bother trying to appeal to them at all. When it comes to read-alouds, I’ve learned one very important trick over the years: Forget the kids, read a book that you enjoy. So right now I’m reading Ellen Raskin’s Newbery Award Winner The Westing Game to them. It was one of my favorite books as a child, and because I still maintain enthusiasm for the story, the boys are perfectly happy to sit and listen to me read — even if they are quietly taking bets on who the murderer is.”
—Ariel Lawhon, author of Flight of Dreams

Blackboard-Bear“My son Seth is 46 now, but it isn’t hard to remember lying in bed reading to him. And sometimes reading and reading … until either he fell asleep or I drifted off in the middle of a page. When he was a toddler, Martha Alexander’s Blackboard Bear, which is about a lonely boy who creates an imaginary friend by drawing a giant bear on his blackboard, was a repeat favorite. Who wouldn’t want a bear for a buddy? A few years after that came Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden.”
—David Martin, author of Shh! Bears Sleeping

“My favorite bedtime story was Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. As a headstrong kid, I loved the shock of Max’s defiance. Wild-ThingsBut then he entered this fantastic land with mythical beasts … and had such courage facing them down. I think that, in taming those beasts, he understood how beastly he had been toward his mother — and I witnessed his dawning understanding and regret. Capped off with the cozy ending, safe at home, with the ‘forgiveness meal’ awaiting him, the whole book was not only imaginative but also morally moving and reassuring to my young heart — something I, too, strive to accomplish in the books I write today.”
—Lisa Tawn Bergren, author of God Gave Us Sleep

“My favorite bedtime story was Jane Langton’s The Swing in the Summerhouse. It was for my first book report in third grade and I remember reading it The-Swing-in-the-Summertimealoud to my dad each night before bed. The story was like a magic carpet that took me through a secret opening in a summerhouse to a new and wonderful place. It was only after I had my own children that I realized it was the second book in a series, so I bought all of them and read the books out loud to my mesmerized daughter again and again.”
—Karen White, author of Flight Patterns (on sale May 31, 2016)

Tuck-Everlasting“One of my favorite bedtime stories is Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt. It’s particularly well suited to being read as a bedtime story because it deals with big topics. Tuck is about mortality. It’s a book that helps children come to terms with their own death by following the story of a ten-year-old who encounters a family who lives forever. Sad and difficult books have a place in our children’s hearts. Tuck Everlasting is true literature. The sentences shine, the story is tenderly written, and Babbitt doesn’t flinch from confronting hard truths.”
—Heather Shumaker, author of It’s OK Not to Share and It’s OK to Go Up the Slide (on sale March 8, 2016)

“At my house, we’re big fans of The Trumpet of the Swan, by E. B. White — it’s funny, entertaining, and very moving. First published in 1970, the novel The-Trumpet-of-the-Swanfollows a trumpeter swan named Louis who is born in rural Canada unable to make any of the usual swan noises. Although his muteness is difficult for him, it also spurs him to enter human civilization in order to learn to read and write, and a series of adventures follows. In a not at all heavy-handed way, the book shows how disabilities or differences can turn out to be advantages that make life more interesting.”
—Curtis Sittenfeld, author of Eligible (on sale April 19, 2016)

Clemetine“For several years, when my four children were all between two and eight years old, bedtime stories were a challenge. A book for the nine-year-old would bore the three-year-old. The adventure the seven-year-old wanted was too much action for the five-year-old. And then we discovered the Clementine series, written by Sara Pennypacker and illustrated by Marla Frazee. Relatable and hilarious, these were the first books that equally appealed to all the kids at the same time, and I have fond memories of everyone tucked into bed, laughing at the same parts.”
—Julie Falatko, author of Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book)

“When I was little I did everything in my power to dodge bedtime, always afraid that I’d miss something exciting if I went to sleep. But there was one thing that could lure me into bed and that was a reading of Blueberries for Sal. I fell in love with Robert Blueberries-for-SalMcCloskey’s Sal, the baby bear, and, most of all, those blueberries. I could almost taste them each time Sal reached into her pail and popped one in her mouth. To this day blueberries remain my favorite fruit and I think it all stems from those bedtime readings of Blueberries for Sal.”
—Renee Rosen, author of White Collar Girl

“No other children’s book could ever mean more to me than Imogene’s Antlers, by David Small. I had the great good fortune of having David as my mentor back when I was studying at Kalamazoo College in the 1980s. Not only did I get to read the book in its first days of publication, I was able to study all the original artwork, absorbing as much as I could of David’s unerring sense of color and Imogene's-Antlers composition. It is a marvelous story, every last page of it, but for me it is even more. It is the children’s book that showed me a path to the future — the book that first got me thinking I could one day make books of my own.”
—Mark Crilley, author of The Drawing Lesson (on sale July 5, 2016)

“One of my favorite books is Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House. In work and in life, I compare and contrast a lot, and this book has been a beacon that showed how something could remain true while the world changed around it. In the story, a little house is originally built awayThe-Little-House from the city but ‘progress’ envelops the little house that was once full of peace, safety, and love. Reading this to our son for the first time last week, I’m now trying to figure out how to lift a two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn and place it upon a hill in a countryside surrounded by peace, safety, and love.”
—Aaron Meshon, author of The Best Days are Dog Days (on sale April 12, 2016)

“I actually wanted to change my name to ‘Minneapolis Simpkin’ when I was a kid because I thought her name was so cool. She was an only child (like me) who wanted a pet (like me) and would do anything to get one (like me). My hamster didn’t end up turning into a basement monster who ate every apple and potato in sight, but who’s to say No-More-Monsters-for-MeHammy wouldn’t have if given the chance? He did have a healthy appetite. I will always love No More Monsters for Me! because I saw myself in it when I was growing up. It’s now a bedtime favorite that I share with my son.”
—Lindsay Ward, author and illustrator of The Importance of Being 3

“Bedtime reading transported me out of Ottawa, Ontario, and into the vastness of imagination. So even though I don’t remember much about my early years, one memory stands out to me like a bright yellow umbrella on a rainy day: The Little Prince, the story that my mother would read to me. The French book combined many of my favorite things at the time: the universe, a cute boy, nature, adventure, and, oddly enough, being singularly special. The Little Prince inspired The-Little-Princeme. He was a boy from another planet traveling the universe to learn about adults and have crazy adventures. In other words, he had the kind of life I could see myself living.

Recently, my mother told me that she’s immensely proud and happy that I’ve seen so much of the world. It goes to show that bedtime reading makes anything possible — though I’m still hoping to meet a mysterious traveler from another world and go on a little adventure myself someday.”
—Camilla d’Errico, author of Pop Manga Coloring Book (on sale July 19, 2016)