cover image Papa's Bedtime Story

Papa's Bedtime Story

Mary Lee Donovan, Mary Lee Dinovan. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $15.99 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-679-91790-8

At the request of his little son, a father relates a lilting story before bed. In a whimsical tale-within-a-tale structure, Papa's telling introduces families of various woodland animals--``blinking barn owls,'' ``sleepy chipmunks'' and more--whose young also entreat their fathers for bedtime stories ``on a warm and rumbling night in June.'' Finally, a chorus of frogs chants ``Go to sleep!'' In her first children's book, Donovan, through melodic language and inflections, creates a suitably soothing quality, as does Root ( Hugh Can Do ) with her serene pastoral setting. (The characters' old-fashioned garb together with their rustic log cabin and wooden cradle suggest an earlier time period.) And, sleepy or not, children will enjoy the repetition at the beginning of each tale: ``So Papa began.'' Muted ink and watercolor illustrations present a series of tender family portraits awash in the blue, green and gray shades of a summer night. One logistic quibble: the ``baby'' appears to be too young to talk, let alone ask for a story. Ages 3-8. (Mar.)