I always know we've discovered a great new picture book when I hear my husband reading it to the boys for the first time, and I think to myself, I wish I was the one reading right now.
That's precisely what happened the first night I overheard Bedtime at the Swamp by Kristyn Crow.
And the second night.
And finally, the third night, I begged the boys for a turn to read it.
Evening is just creeping in when the boy in the story hears a splashing sound. He is sure it is the illusive swamp monster out to get him, and he takes off running. He finds safety in a nearby willow tree and is soon joined by his sister, brother, and two cousins, who were all sent to fetch him to bed. However, as soon as each one hears the, "Splish splash, rumba-rumba, bim bam BOOM!," they decide the tree's branches seem like a good idea.
Suddenly the swamp monster springs out from the Black Lagoon, and it is at that moment the children realize they were mistaken and their biggest threat is just behind him.
I am a total sucker for a knee-slappin', toe-tappin', infectious rhyme. Besides the hypnotic "splish splash, rumba rumba, bim bam BOOM," each verse has a definite rhythmic beat and works best if you can manage a convincing Southern twang (thankfully my listeners were not the least judgmental of my attempt).
It also emits just the right mix of suspense and fear to make it a great curl-up-and-sit-still bedtime story. The text naturally leads you to alter the speed and volume of your voice to match the action in the story. The illustrations, vibrant and terrifying, match the text in all the right ways (I think my favorite picture is the one where all the kids, plus their dog, are peeking over the edge of the tree. The swamp monster is clinging to the trunk below, and the whole page is bathed in an otherworldly green glow). And, in the end, it's not really very scary at all, so no worries about nightmares.
Now that we've had the book from the library for a couple of weeks, I think my favorite part has been listening to my two-year-old read it to himself. It's just so cute hearing him say, "Splish splash, rumba-rumba, bim bam BOOM!" (although his Southern twang could use a little work). In fact, we've all been going around the house chanting that refrain. I'll bet even you, just reading this post, can't help whispering them to yourself.