The Bedtime Rhyme
Walter Wangerin & Benrei Huang
Reprinted by Paraclete, 2008
This bedtime story is not for the faint of heart! Walter Wangerin is one of my favorite authors of theological kids lit, in part because he does not talk down to children or spin sentimental tales. The Bedtime Rhyme is no exception; what looks like a simple rhyming goodnight book is actually a powerful story about the presence of a God who neither slumbers nor sleeps.
The Bedtime Rhyme is narrated by a mother who is tucking her child into bed and telling him how much she loves him. She describes the extent of her love in the language of protection: she would rescue him from robbers (yes, robbers!), keep him from floating away into the sky, fight off monsters, and save him from intimidating owls.
Needless to say, such scary images are not typical of bedtime stories, but somehow in this book it doesn’t seem terribly out of place. That’s not to say that some of the pages in this book wouldn’t be frightening to some children, but the scary parts lead to a conclusion that is all the more powerful because of them. The last five pages of the book point to the loving presence of the Holy Spirit:
“…You’re not alone / If you call my name, I’ll come. / So you and me / That’s two of we / But there’s three of us here! There’s three!”
The boy’s mother shares that ultimately, God is the one who watches over and keeps us safe. He is stronger and wiser and kinder than even the best parent, and he is the one in whom a child can find true comfort and peace.
While this book is certainly not for every child, it is an outstanding choice for some. Wangerin’s poetry and the imaginative illustrations are a perfect pair, and if your child is not easily frightened I dare say that The Bedtime Rhyme might become a fast favorite.