Do you need your bedtime tales to run just a little shorter? If so, pounce on a copy of Once Upon a Time, the End (Asleep in 60 Seconds) (Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, $15.95; ages 4 to 8). How about “Goldilocks and the Bears” in 13 lines – with a “bunch” of bears because “it doesn’t really matter how many.” Likewise, “The Two Little Pigs” really speeds things up. (Who needs that third pig, anyway?) “Sleeping Beauty” manages nicely in 10 lines – wrapping up with her advice: “Go to sleep!” An exhausted dad microwaves these traditional tales and rhymes, ending all of them with pressure on his lively child to nod out. Geoffrey Kloske wrote the witty text, which Barry Blitt highlights with pale, wobbly drawings. Fun at any time of day.
Continue the playfulness with Smiles! – 101 Stunts, Oohs and Aahs, Puzzles and Magic to Bring a Smile to a Child’s Face (Speaking Out Press, $12.95; ages 5 to 10). This handy paperback is by Ruth Stotter, a folklorist, storyteller and, most important, former camp director. Some activities are familiar (“52 Card Pick-Up,” “Got Your Nose,” plus drawing on your child’s back, lemon juice surprise messages, snow and sand angels, crayon leaf prints and sock puppets), but many are intriguingly inventive (personal crossword puzzle, paper-folding origami spoofs, telling your life stories and more). All are clearly explained to provide hours of activity.
Finally, playing with autumn leaves gets a new twist in Leaf Man (Harcourt, $16; ages 4 to 8). If you believe, as artist Lois Ehlert does, that leaves “are among the most beautiful art supplies in the world,” you will love the wondrous effects she achieves. The brief, breezy story is punctuated by a refrain: “A Leaf Man’s got to go where the wind blows.” Part guessing-game, part inspiration for a child’s own leaf art projects, this book is mostly an invitation to look anew at the beauty of autumn.