Bedtime Story

My toddler Drake is eighteen months old this week, and has finally worked his way up to listening to every word of both Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton, and Bedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Garth Williams. Bedtime for Frances is especially fun for me to read. I get to make up tunes for Frances’ made-up songs, and I very much enjoy reading the voices of Frances and her father, one timid and the other grumpy, in this exchange toward the end. I have a hard time not laughing as I read it. Drake also finds it funny, and laughs at the same place every time. He has a wonderful, gurgly, delighted laugh. It is a joy to hear.

Frances stood by Father’s side of the bed very quietly,
right near his head.
She was so quiet that she was the quietest thing in the room.
She was so quiet that Father woke up all of a sudden,
with his eyes wide open.
He said, “Umph!” [Drake laughs here.]
Frances said, “There is something moving the curtains.
May I sleep with you?”
Father said, “Listen, Frances, do you want to know
why the curtains are moving?”
“Why?” said Frances.
“That is the wind’s job,” said Father. “Every night the wind
has to go around and blow all the curtains.”
“How can the wind have a job?” said Frances.
Everybody has a job,” said Father.
“I have to go to my office every morning at nine o’clock.
That is my job. You have to go to sleep
so you can be wide awake for school tomorrow.
That is your job.”
Frances said, “I know, but…”
Father said, “I have not finished.
If the wind does not blow the curtains, he will be out of a job.
If I do not go to the office, I will be out of a job.
And if you do not go to sleep now,
do you know what will happen to you?”
“I will be out of a job?” said Frances.
“No,” said Father.
“I will get a spanking?” said Frances.
“Right!” said Father.
“Good night!” said Frances, and she went back to her room.

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