Reading aloud at bedtime is very important. Young children thrive on rituals, parental closeness and imagination. These tales will calm them down and enthrall them with magic and gentle inspiration.

Good Night, Baddies

By Deborah Underwood; illustrations by Juli Kangas; Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster; 32 pages; $16.99

Children are eternal optimists with kind hearts. They can’t possibly believe that all evil characters in classic storybooks are all bad all the time. So, they’ll be relieved to find out in Good Night, Baddies that the “​baddies” can be friendly, fun and nice, especially at night in their comfort of their own homes or castles.

Deborah Underwood’s imaginative tale stars famous mischief-makers (wicked witches, stern queens giants and trolls), who meet at the end of one day and share thoughtful greetings and concerned updates.

The rhyming text is lively, witty and sympathetic.

One character says, “Poor old troll, your life is tough: a muddy wait for three goats gruff” as Juli Kangas’ hairy, green creature tiredly scrubs his back in a soapy bath.

Kangas’ warm, homey and detailed pictures paint a cozy castle life any child would want to be a part of. On my favorite page, youngsters will relate to a huge giant who’s scared that a princess may be hiding under his bed, and giggle at the witches soothing him.

Good Night, Baddies is that rare bedtime tale that has it all: humor, rhyming text that’s kind and rolls easily off tired tongues, and relatable characters that prove even the baddies of literature — or society — can have worthy potential.

Go to Sleep, Monster!

By Kevin Cornell; Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins; 32 pages; $17.99

In Go to Sleep, Monster! George is afraid of a purple monster under his bed, who’s afraid of an orange, one-eyed creature under the floor, who’s afraid of another monster under the room.

As George; his sister, Anna; and the rounded, funny creatures explore each layer underneath his room, they discover a bespectacled character “In the center-most center...of the center of the earth!”

When they admonish the character to stop scaring everyone, saying that he’s the “​underest under something someone can be!” he confesses that even he is scared of being alone. And then they all saw logs happily together.

Kevin Cornell’s glowingly dark blue, brooding, yet funny pages have a lighthearted, sinister feel. The text is brief and nearly all quotations, with no narration necessary.

Go to Sleep, Monster! is an adventurous bedtime tale that’s quick to read and satisfying.

How to Put Your Parents to Bed

By Mylisa Larsen; illustrated by Babette Cole; Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins; 32 pages; $17.99

A wise cat narrates How to Put Your Parents to Bed, a fun tale about a little girl who’s not tired, but her parents are exhausted. It’s suggested that she puts them to bed, but there are a slew of obstacles: they need to put in a load of laundry, do the dishes and answer one more email.

The cat, we think, gives the girl step-by-step instructions — “Start with brushing teeth. Help them if you can. Those back molars can be hard to reach.” — and tells her to be patient when they become unruly.

“Tiny things upset them. Remain calm. Do not negotiate,” the cat says, as the tutu-wearing tot steadfastly wrangles her parents to bed.

Babette Cole’s whimsically flowing illustrations are hilarious, as usual, while Mylisa Larsen’s unique take on a common dilemma is smile-inducing and tongue-in-cheek.

Good Night Owl

By Greg Pizzoli; Hyperion/Disney; 48 pages; $17.99

Owl hears a noise and can’t sleep. He repeatedly gets out of bed to look for the noise, and slowly demolishes his whole house during the extensive search.

While preschool readers will see where the mouse is on each page of Good Night Owl, Owl has no clue and gets more and more agitated. He finally spots Mouse, and they all sleep happily ever after.

This is a winning trifecta of a book: It’s a funny bedtime read, a spot-the-character tale and an exploration of how to accept anxiety to get peace, or how not to!).

Greg Pizzoli’s bright pastels (yeah, yeah) look vintage and midcentury, resulting in a real nighttime winner.

Monster & Son

By David LaRochelle; illustrated by Joey Chou; Chronicle Books; 32 pages; $16.99

Though not really a bedtime tale, Monster & Son tells of the end of a monster and son’s fun day, as they jump into their jammies and give each other tight, fearsome hugs and goodnight whispers.

Friendly, retro yetis, blobs, giant lizards and happy mummies show young readers that monsters are no different than humans and have plenty of good times together, all the while sharing love and humor.

Not one bit of this adorable tale is scary, and it’s a lighthearted look at relationships that will happily bring any day to an end.

— Lee Littlewood writes the Kids’ Home Library column for Creators. The San Diego wife and mom’s pure love of children’s literature helps her stay interested in words and pictures meant for tots to teens. Click here to contact her, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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