Fran Manushkin, , illus. by Leonid Gore. . Dutton, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-525-46956-8

Manushkin (Baby, Come Out! ) takes the familiar plight of the small child who can't get settled for the night and nimbly reframes it as an appealing toddler-size adventure, casting her spell from the opening words: "A long time ago, when the world was so young that all the rocks were little pebbles and all the chicks were still in their eggs..." Little Sleepyhead, an elfin figure with a shock of hair that stands up or hangs limp depending on how things are going, wanders yawning through the forest, looking for "someplace soft" to sleep. The grass has too many funny bugs in it; the branches of trees with the squirrels prove too bumpy. In the same way that a small child sneaking around the house often ends up crashing into something, Little Sleepyhead sets off a chain of loud accidents in the forest, until he finds himself in front of a big pile of feathers and in the company of "someone to hug." Gore (Who Was Born This Special Day? ) echoes Manushkin's tender-hearted humor in velvety-textured full-bleed pastel spreads. Little Sleepyhead and his animal companions appear within the misty roses of sunset and the blues of dusk, their antic expressions tempered by lightly drawn lines and dreamlike, blended backgrounds. For households where bedtime can stretch to epic proportions, the last line explains how it's done: "And if you have a bed, and something to hug, then you can go to sleep, too!" Ages 3-7. (May)