First, the story of a child’s first night away from home is classic. And second, the illustrations by A.G. Ford will give the reader many opportunities to talk about what the pictures, in addition to the words, can tell us about the boy and his grandfather.
The illustration across the title and publication pages shows an old man and a young boy on the porch of a large, old house, which appears to be located in an isolated rural setting. They are waving at a car driving away, with the female passenger leaning out the window, waving back.
The boy is Isaac, and the old man is Grandpop. We assume those in the car are Isaac’s parents.
Isaac loves his Grandpop, and from the illustration covering the first two pages of the story, we see Isaac and Grandpop on the floor happily playing a board game. Look more closely. There’s a plate of pretzels, sliced apples and crackers. And to the side of the plate? Yep, a box of juice with a straw. On the other side of the room is an opened box of blocks. And don’t forget the teddy bear next to Isaac. We know it is getting late because Isaac is wearing PJs bought especially for the sleepover.
When Grandpop tells Isaac that’s it’s time for bed, Isaac responds with words parents hear all the time, “I’m not sleepy.” And Grandpop’s response? “Then stay awake. But it’s time to put the house to bed.”
Quiet and cozy
“First, you move kind of quiet and slow.” Next, Grandpop turns off a lamp, “Now, let’s make it nice and dark and cozy.” What an ingenious description of the dark.
Isaac is OK until a clicking noise scares him. He takes Grandpop’s hand because noises can be scary even if the dark is nice and cozy. But the noise is only the sound of Grandpop’s old dog Snuffles clicking across the hardwood floor.
They hear more scary noises: like the wind outside and the creaking of stairs. Windows are closed and shades lowered. “Looks like the house is closing its eyes to sleep.” These are the sounds an old house makes when it goes to sleep.
Isaac is to sleep in his “Mommy’s old bedroom.” When Grandpop says it is time to read the house a bedtime story, Isaac tells him he doesn’t read yet. Wise Grandpop sits in a big chair next to the bed, pulls Isaac and the bear onto his lap and asks Isaac to read the pictures to him.
By the end of the book, Grandpop has fallen asleep. I won’t say what Isaac does next. But this book is full of love and lessons. “Time for Bed, Old House” is such a keeper.
Sunny Solomon holds an MA in English/Creative Writing, San Francisco State University. She is a book reviewer for “The Clayton Pioneer” and her poetry and other writing has been published in literary journals, one chapbook, In the Company of Hope and the collection, Six Poets Sixty-six Poems. She was the happy manager of Bonanza Books, Clayton, CA and Clayton Books, Clayton, CA. She continues to moderate a thriving book club that survived the closure of the store from which it began. Sunny currently lives next to the Truckee in Reno, NV.