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 Tablet, The Forward, The Horn Book, and other publications, and writes about children’s books on her blog. She has a Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures.