The Midnight Babies

Image of The Midnight Babies: A Picture Book
Release Date: 
June 13, 2023
Abrams Books for Young Readers
Reviewed by: 

"For all the young children who don't want to go to sleep, The Midnight Babies acts out their fantasies of staying awake."

For all the young children who don't want to go to sleep, The Midnight Babies acts out their fantasies of staying awake. From far and wide, babies who don't want to sleep gather together.

"Tonight, we will stay up ALL NIGHT! We will travel to the shores of Nodoff, we will battle the forces of Sleep, and we will NOT go to bed!"

The babies make noise as they march, but as they head to Nodoff, one after another of them is tempted to fall asleep, by nightlights, by warm coziness, by teddy bears. In fact, as shown in these pages, the lure of sleep is much more inviting than whatever joys staying awake may provide. Unlike the usual fantasy of staying up late, there's nothing really to tempt a baby to resist sleep. There's no sense of seeing what happens in the house when everyone's in bed, no mystery of what fun things the adults may be doing while babies sleep.

In the end, even the ringleader, the Wide-Awake baby succumbs to cuddling.

"Her eyes begin to close.

'No. Never! Must . . . stay . . . awake . . . ALL NIGHT.'

But wouldn't it be nice, oh so nice, to go to Sleep?"

With all the Midnight Babies snoozing, they play together in the Land of Sleep, which seems so much more fun that the Stay Awake Land, full of:

"bananas and warm milk, cuddles and caterpillars, drums and birds, vanilla clouds and raspberry skies, ice cream and scooters, Ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds, and lots and lots of cake. Not one of them can remember why they tried so very hard not to come here."

The story isn't quite a cozy hymn to sleep nor does it celebrate the fun of being naughty or of discovering the secret world of night. Instead it's a bit of a muddle, making sleep something to battle against for no clear reason. The ending, like the premise itself, isn't satisfying, suggesting as it does, another battle against sleep in the night to come. But why bother?

Rather than a book about how kids actually feel, the story seems geared to frustrated parents of Wide-Awake babies. They're the real audience for these pages. They would probably also better appreciate the spiky illustrations with the babies oddly depicted, especially in profile. These aren't your typical cute, cuddly babies, but maybe that's intentional, to go along with fighting the cuddly lure of sleep.

This may be a book more intended as a gift for sleep-deprived parents than for young readers.