Ten Must Read Ethnic Bedtime Books

It’s easy to grab some of the age old classics, such as Good Night Moon or Harold and the Purple Crayon, (and we are by no means saying that these books shouldn’t be read at bedtime), but in the effort to normalize ethnic fiction, particularly for ethnic children, we know that it’s hard to find proper books that fit the occasions you want. So, we have compiled a short list, with more to come, of ethnic bedtime books. Below is a varied mix of African, Indian, Asian, and Black American books for bedtime. As always, feel free to email us through the website if you are looking for specific books for your little ones! Keep reading.

Sleep Well, Siba and Saba by Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl is a sweet story about two Ugandan sisters, Siba and Saba. Although these girls tend to lose things often, they just as often find them in their dreams. Full of soft pastels and dreamlike qualities, Sleep Well, Siba and Saba is perfect for not only tucking your little one in, but sending them to their rest excited for their dreams.

Stop That Yawn by Carin Levis is a lively book that features Gabby Wild and her grandmother. Gabby doesn’t want to go to Snooze Town. She wants to go where people stay awake all night, so they do. Unfortunately, Grandma yawns, and that kicks off a chain of events that puts the residents of Never Sleeping City at risk…of sleeping. Can Gabby stop that yawn? Can she save the town? Or will she too succumb to sleepiness? Stop That Yawn is a rollicking, fun ride for child and parent alike, and it encourages plenty of yawns for the kiddos before bed.

Gorgeously rendered, The Night Monster by Sushree Mishra was originally published in India, where it won the 2017 Jarul Book Children’s Choice Award. If your child is afraid of the dark, this book is a wonderful addition to your library. When Avi takes his fears of the night monster to his sister, Swati, she has him write the night monster a letter. The next day, the monster writes back. Thus, begins a writing relationship between Avi and the night, who tells him what the sounds he hears really are, why the shadows seem to move, and why the owl hoots.

Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley is a snapshot into the life of Lucy and her parents. It tells the story of a day at the beach that ends with an early bedtime. Mom is asleep. Dad is asleep, but Lucy, is not. Instead, she goes on a journey through the house, collects her toys, and tucks them in. Throughout the pages, the theme of yawns coaxes your children into yawning right along with the pictures on the wall, the little boy in the book, the toys, and of course, Lucy. Twenty Yawns serves to normalize multiple levels of childhood, including being biracial (which Lucy is), but also, being comfortable before bed, recognizing when it is time to sleep and more.

You can’t fail to be charmed by Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk. Celina Kalluk is an Inuit throat-singer who wrote this darling poem that tells the story of a newborn baby in the Arctic. Throughout the book, the reader is exposed to the animals in the arctic, the beauty of the scenery, and the traditions of its people. Not only does Sweetest Kulu have a soothing cadence, but the book serves to teach your child about an area, the people who live there, and pick up a new word. Kulu is an Inuktitut term of endearment, and aren’t all children kulus?

Hush by Minfong Ho is a darling story about a Thai mother attempting to put her child to sleep. The animals of Thailand are loud, and as she goes around the house and outside hushing insects and creatures alike, each of them silently drops off to sleep, until the mother too slumbers. There is one catch though, baby is still awake. Winner of a Caldecott Honor, this book is an easy favorite of young children.

We often see mothers or couples in books, and it is always a nice change of pace to see a book that is about fathers. It is even better when we get the chance to read a book written by a father for his sons. Eric-Shabazz Larkin wrote The Thing About Bees: A Love Letter for his sons. It is simultaneously a love letter, as the title says, a fledgling entomology book, as you learn quite a lot about pollinators and bees, and a courageous testimonial of a father who faced his fears for his sons. While all of the books on this list are amazing, The Thing About Bees is easily one of our favorites. The poem is beautiful, the images are alive, and there are layers of lessons you and your child can take away from the reading.

Max and the Tagalong Moon by Floyd Cooper is the heart-warming story of a little boy and his grandfather. Max loves his grandpa, but he has to go home. As he is saying goodbye, his grandfather reminds him that they will never be too far apart because wherever Max is, the moon will follow, and that is the same moon that is above Grandpa’s house. Max watches the moon through the window until it disappears behind some clouds and does not come back out. He begins to worry that his grandfather was wrong, and the moon did not follow him, but later, in his bedroom, he finds the moon outside his window. Perfect for children who are missing loved ones that had to go home or that they had to leave, Max and the Tagalong Moon is a magical book that encompasses the sweet relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.

Never Ask a Dinosaur to Dinner by Gareth Edwards is pure fun and repetition that teaches a bedtime routine. It is silly and goofy and just about perfect for little people who love to giggle (which is all of them, right?). This adorable little boy learns the hard way that he should never ask a dinosaur to dinner, or use a tiger as a towel, or try to sleep with a barn owl. While we follow the little boy through eating dinner, brushing his teeth, and getting ready for bed, we also get to giggle and laugh at the shenanigans he gets into, such as a beaver building a dam in his sink. In the end, it is time for bed, and the child realizes he needs to just get one teddy, one blanket, and count some sheep.

Imani’s Moon by JaNay Brown-Wood tells the story of overcoming adversity and ignoring your haters. Imani is the smallest girl in her village. She is so small that children accuse her of being shorter than a lion cub’s knees. Every night, her mother tells her stories that are derived from Maasai folklore and mythology, and Imani is filled with hope. One day, Imani decides she wants to touch the moon, but every time she tries, she fails. Her failure is always in front of the other village children, but every night, her mother tells her a new story that inspires her to try again. Finally, and we won’t spoil the ending for you, Imani realizes how to make it to the moon. Full of African Maasai folklore and the sweetest, little girl, Imani’s Moon is a wonderful tale about dreams that is perfect for bedtime.