Just One More Thing … and Then Bedtime

  • Review
By – February 8, 2024

With all the won­ders of the uni­verse to expe­ri­ence each day, why would any child wel­come bed­time? Author and illus­tra­tor Mena­hem Hal­ber­stadt acknowl­edges this wrin­kle in his warm, humor­ous pic­ture book, which opens with the Hebrew bless­ing that thanks God for the won­ders of cre­ation. One of Halberstadt’s char­ac­ters is a lov­ing father — a large, disheveled man with a bushy beard, glass­es on the end of his nose, and a shirt bear­ing a ham­sa and the word Mazal” — who is on the edge of being over­whelmed by the demands of par­ent­ing. His two end­less­ly ener­getic chil­dren are not ready to end their day.

Nao­mi, like her baby broth­er, believes that there is always just one more thing” to do or think about before the lights go out. Mun­dane activ­i­ties, such as putting on cloth­ing, become occa­sions for appre­ci­at­ing the uni­verse: It’s so lucky that my ears can fold over a bit, because oth­er­wise I couldn’t squeeze t‑shirts on.” Chil­dren will relate to Naomi’s awe and her desire to stay awake, and adults will be remind­ed that they should nev­er take seem­ing­ly rou­tine events for granted.

Par­ent­ing is not easy, and luck cer­tain­ly plays a role in get­ting kids to lis­ten. When Nao­mi com­ments on the con­ve­nience of grav­i­ty, her father insists that she put her head on her pil­low. Defy­ing basic physics, she, the baby, and their dog float up to the ceil­ing, while Dad looks upward and help­less­ly points toward the ground. The image speaks to those moments in which rules can’t com­pete with a child’s persistence.

Exhaust­ed, and look­ing like an over­grown child him­self, the father falls asleep on a tiny bed, his legs hang­ing over the end like a giant in a fairy tale. Here, Hal­ber­stadt blurs the bound­ary between child­hood and adult­hood. He then depicts the father and chil­dren as winged crea­tures in joy­ous flight, prov­ing Naomi’s asser­tion that we are lucky to dream — oth­er­wise, sleep would be noth­ing but a bor­ing expanse of time. The bed­room floor may be lit­tered with crayons, but a full moon is peek­ing through the win­dow, full of pos­si­bil­i­ty. Hal­ber­stadt cap­tures the bless­ing of the nat­ur­al world’s gifts, as expe­ri­enced by one for­tu­nate family.

Emi­ly Schnei­der writes about lit­er­a­ture, fem­i­nism, and cul­ture for TabletThe For­wardThe Horn Book, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions, and writes about chil­dren’s books on her blog. She has a Ph.D. in Romance Lan­guages and Literatures.

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