Tot Sauce: Three Great Bedtime Novels

by Jason Toon

Reading to my daughters is an essential part of the bedtime ritual at our house. The kids enjoy the story, the grownups enjoy how it quiets them down before bed. Sometimes we'll read a whole picture book in one sitting. But longer books, doled out a chapter a night, really turn bedtime into something they look forward to. Once you've run through Harry Potter and Winnie the Pooh, here are three more you can try, every one a hit with the Toon girls.

The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White: Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little fully deserve their reputations as classics. But don't overlook this lovely gem about a swan who can read but can't trumpet - until he finds a manmade trumpet and gets a job playing reveille at a summer camp. Fame and fortune working nightclub gigs soon follow - but can he really be happy so far away from home? White's typically elegant prose brings life to the old cliche: you will laugh, and you will cry.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart: When four orphans - all geniuses in different ways - respond to a cryptic ad about opportuntities for gifted children, an eccentric millionaire assembles them into a team of agents. Their mission: stop a megalomaniac's global mind-control scheme. This series does for spies what Harry Potter did for wizards. Analytical kids will enjoy the brain-teasers that the plot often turns on. Sensitive kids will respond to the moments of genuine tenderness in the orphans' lives. And you'll all be wondering what happens next.

On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder: For me, reading the Little House books was a revelation. I was expecting gentle calico nostalgia; I found hardship, struggle, and frontier weirdness. They're all great, but On the Banks of Plum Creek gets my nod for a truly astonishing locust infestation, and the first appearance of another kind of equally nasty pest: Nellie Oleson.

What are you guys reading at bedtime? Right now we're halfway through the second Mysterious Benedict Society book, so I need suggestions ASAP! Post 'em in the comments…