Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang (Harper Trophy, $5.99) is a personal and store favorite. First published in 1983, the book won a Caldecott Honor award. It is the story of a girl and her father counting down to bed time. Each item counted is described in soothing words, starting with “10 small toes all washed and warm” down to “1 big girl all ready for bed”. The various items counted — toes, friends, windows, shoes, buttons, eyes — will be familiar to your young reader and perhaps you can add your own counting game. However, this is a book to be read while snuggling and should be the last book read before bedtime. The illustrations each interlock. The first picture focuses on those ten toes and the second illustration shoes ten toes plus the “9 soft friends in a quiet room”. We notice that one of those friends is a cat, and in the following illustrations the cat walks under a crib, looks at the mobile above the crib, then settles behind the chair of the girl and her father, looking down at the girl’s five buttons, Her toes, which we started with, are conspicuously outside the picture frame, and the next image zooms in closer to “sleep eyes”. In the final three illustrations, the girl and her father revisit now familiar places in the room, the crib and the stuffed animals, until finally she lays in bed with her bear. The illustrations are colorful, but just subdued enough to the convey the fading light.
Ten, Nine, Eight is officially becoming a classic. I happen to know that that little girl now has two boys of her own. I suspect this bedtime book will be read for many generations to come.