Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Review: Kiss Good Night by Amy Hest

Good morning! Today, I'm going to try something a little different. Believe it or not, I've hosted 2 blogs up until now...and failed miserably. However, there's no way I'm going to give up on one of the best group of writers I've ever met. So, the first Wednesday of every month, I'm going to be starting the daily post with a quick nod at this wonderful group. Plus, you readers out there will get a glimpse at the secrets of the writing world and what goes through an author's head! (I hear ooooos and aaaaahhhhs of amazement, right?) In any case, I hope you can bear with me, and we'll see how this works.

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group posts every 1st Wednesday of the month and gives writers/authors a chance to admit fears or offer encouragement to those who need it. (started by the fantastic Alex J. Cavanaugh) To join in, click the image for more details! The amazing co-hosts this month are Erika Beebe, Olga Godim, Sandra Cox, Sarah Foster, and Chemist Ken!

What's the one thing about your writing career you regret the most? Were you able to overcome it?

Not always having enough time to write. I haven't overcome this one yet, but I'm determined to give it my best shot. But then, life is inspiration. I just have to find a way to not let that keep me from getting to my keyboard.


Today's review isn't a new release. Instead, it fits into the category of  'oldie but goodie'. First released in 1984, this book has touched many a young reader and has been re-released more than a few times. Since I haven't read it before but have no doubt there's a reason for it's continued popularity from one generation to the next, I'm finally taking a look at it.

Let's take a peek!

by Amy Hest
Illustrated by Anita Jeram
Candlewick Press
Board Book
30 pages
ages 2 to 6

"An enchanting little story, with homey illustrations that add to its appeal." — School Library Journal (starred review)

Outside, the wind blows and the rain comes down. Inside, it is Sam’s bedtime. Mrs. Bear reads him a story, tucks him in, and brings him warm milk. "Are you ready now, Sam?" she asks. "I’m waiting," he says. What else does Sam need before going to sleep? Could Mrs. Bear have forgotten a kiss?




Simple, super sweet, and perfect for a bedtime read.

It's time for Sam to go to bed, despite the storm brewing outside. When Mrs. Bear asks if he's ready, he tells her he's waiting...which is her cue to read him a book and snuggle him into bed. But when she asks again if he's ready, his response doesn't change. Soon, she's mentally going through the list of what she might have forgotten.

I got my hands on the hard copy of this little board book, although I do understand that there is a 'puffy' board book and an audio form on this one, too. This book has been around for a few years, and after reading it, I know why it's stood the test of time. It's simple, hits a very familiar situation, has a tinsy-bit of tension due to the storm and, most importantly, is packed with love.

There is a bit more text than in many board books (not too much, though). This makes it ideal for a bedtime read, since it gives listeners just a tiny bit more time to sink into the scene and let their minds drift. Especially ages 2 to 5 will enjoy this one, and it has a great size for their hands. As a board book, it's also more robust and can be tugged into bed without worries of pages crinkling and such.

The illustrations are detailed and allow Sam and his mother to come across as a loving bear family. I did enjoy gazing at each one, and especially appreciate the artistic flair. 

For those looking for bedtime reads, this is definitely one to pick up, especially if you don't mind giving a kiss...or two...or even more before you say 'good night'.

And here they are!

Amy Hest secretly aspired to be a writer from an early age, but, she says, “I never thought my life was exciting enough for a writer. I didn’t have any fantastic adventures. I didn’t run away from home. I actually got along with my parents. I was such a goody two-shoes that I couldn’t help but wonder what other kid would want to read anything I wrote.”

But her passion for books must have been apparent to all who knew her. Born in New York City and raised on Long Island, she worked in a library as a page from the age of sixteen. “I wanted the job so badly that I went to the director’s office every single day after school to tell him so,” she says. “Finally one day he called me to say that he had moved my application to the top of the pile and would keep it there if that meant I wouldn’t come by to bother him the next day.” Amy Hest worked as a children’s librarian in the New York Public Library system in the early 1970s, and then for years in children’s book publishing. She wrote all during this time, still not sharing her ambition with the world, not even with her publishing co-workers!

Today, Amy Hest is the highly versatile author of more than thirty books for young readers, many of which affectionately address family and intergenerational themes. Mr. George Baker is the tender tale of an elderly man and a young boy linked by the common pursuit of learning to read. Also among Amy Hest’s books are the beloved Baby Duck stories, illustrated by Jill Barton, including Guess Who, Baby Duck!, a sweet depiction of the special bond between Baby Duck and her Grampa. About In the Rain With Baby Duck—which received a Boston Globe–Horn Book Award—the author says, “It’s about things that I love: pancakes and rainy days and children (like mine) who pout, and parents (like me) who have their own agenda, and grandparents (like my own) who have a way of making problems go away.”

Another series of picture books by Amy Hest were inspired by the author’s son, Sam. “When Sam was small he knew countless ways to keep me in his room at bedtime,” she says of her inspiration for New York Times bestseller Kiss Good Night. Its follow-up, Don’t You Feel Well, Sam? came from memories of “some long-ago nights . . . when things weren’t quite right. There were many hugs, of course. And occasionally, a dose of terrible-tasting medicine.” In You Can Do It, Sam, the third of these endearing tales (all illustrated by Anita Jeram), Sam, with gentle encouragement from his mother, ventures out of the house to deliver homemade treats to his neighbors all by himself.

Amy Hest claims to be “a very moody person,” noting that “what I write depends on my mood.” These changeable moods have produced not just picture books but also novels for middle-grade readers, including I Love You, Soldier and its sequel, The Private Notebook of Katie Roberts, Age 11—both of which were named Booklist Editors’ Choices—as well as The Great Green Notebook of Katie Roberts, Age 12, and Remembering Mrs. Rossi. These moods have also earned the author a host of awards, including the prestigious Christopher Medal, twice—for the highly acclaimed When Jessie Came Across the Sea, illustrated by P.J. Lynch, and for Kiss Good Night.

Most of Amy Hest’s books take place close to home, in New York, where she and her husband live. “One of the things I love about working at home is the proximity to the refrigerator,” she says. “If you are going to be a writer, you need to have a lot of ice cream. When I have a bad writer’s day—and that happens a lot—a spoonful of ice cream perks me up. And when you have a good writer’s day, you need a reward.” You can find her at

For Anita Jeram, illustrating the phenomenal bestseller Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney was a labor of love. Even today, she says, “Every time I read this book, I want to cry. The story reminds me so much of my own son, who often plays this kind of game with me when it’s time for bed.” An immediate problem arose during her early brainstorming for the illustrations, however: she had never actually seen a hare. Trying to be helpful, her paleontologist husband brought a stuffed hare home from the museum. In the end though, the winsome Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare grew out of her imagination.

Anita Jeram’s son inspired her art again when he asked her which of the children in their family was the best—himself, his brother, or his sister. Anita Jeram explained they were all equal in her eyes, and he came back with another question: “Okay, then, who’s the cleanest?” She laughs as she recalls, “There’s always one in every family.” To answer this timeless question—who is the favorite child?—Anita Jeram reunited with author Sam McBratney to create You’re All My Favorites, a comforting tale in which Mommy and Daddy Bear reassure their three worried cubs that there’s plenty of love to go around.

Even before starting her illustrations for You’re All My Favorites, however, Anita Jeram had plenty of practice painting bears—in a noticeably different style. Kiss Good Night, a tender bedtime tale about a mother bear and a little bear, was a collaboration between Anita Jeram and acclaimed author Amy Hest. “I had recently finished illustrating part of In Every Tiny Grain of Sand (edited by Reeve Lindbergh), using acrylic paint for the first time, and I thought acrylics would give the pictures for Kiss Good Night some depth and warmth that I couldn’t seem to get with watercolors,” she says. “I visited the London zoo to look at the bears for inspiration, but it was a cold day and they all huddled asleep. So in the end I think Mrs. Bear is based on myself. She’s rather tall and big built, but I hope she looks like a nice comforting mom to have.” The illustrator carries the same soothing style into two sequels, Don’t You Feel Well, Sam? and You Can Do It, Sam.

The illustrator of many other popular and critically acclaimed books for children, including All Pigs Are Beautiful by Dick King-Smith, Anita Jeram has also written several children’s books of her own. As author-illustrator of Bunny, My Honey, a sweet story of a bunny lost and then found, she was able to exercise her rabbit-drawing skills. A rabbit is also the hero of I Love My Little Storybook, her magical tribute to the wonderful world of books.

Anita Jeram, a native of Portsmouth, England, studied art at Manchester Polytechnic and published her first book for children while she was still a student. Today, she lives in Northern Ireland with her family and a menagerie of animals. In the future she hopes to establish a wildlife sanctuary. You can find out more about her at


Nick Wilford said...

Welcome to IWSG! You make a great point. To write, we need to live. So no point grumbling about that.

Those are great books for kids. You Can Do It Sam is the one we have on our shelf... grandson is enjoying it now!

Tonja Drecker said...

Hi Nick! Thanks for the greetings, but actually, we've visited each other on and off for years. I just had to admit that I can only do so much at a time and have given up Kidbits to concentrate here. But I didn't want to lose any of you. :)

Tonja Drecker said...

Oh, and I'm so glad you love Kiss Good Night, too!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Glad you're starting to post again for IWSG here. Having two blogs seems too hard. And I struggle with finding enough time to write too.

Tyrean Martinson said...

I love your review and the information about the author and illustrator! Maybe I can get this book for one of my grand-nephews. :)
I get your regret all too well, but I hope this year opens up some writing time for both of us.
Happy Writing!

Sherry Ellis said...

That book does look adorable!

You and I share the lack of time for writing thing. I need to make it a point to write at least one day a week, or I'll never finish the manuscript I've been working on.

I think it's a great idea to combine the blogs. Will save time, too!

Wishing you a very happy, healthy, and productive 2022!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Glad to have you back in the IWSG! Followed this blog. Maybe with only one blog you will have more time for writing.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Hi Tonja! I know you said you'd struggled with two blogs, so I think this is a good move.

Erika Beebe said...

HI Tonja. I really appreciate you stopping into and visiting me :) When I finally finish my manuscript, if you have time, I might give you a shout :)

Chemist Ken said...

Now that I'm semi-retired, I have more time to write. But in some ways, I seem to get even less writing done now than back when I was working full time. Go figure.

Use your extra time for writing and you'll be happy. Happy 2022!

Shannon Lawrence said...

I hope your blog changes work out for you! I struggle keeping up with one blog these days, so two definitely wouldn't happen.

The Warrior Muse

Chrys Fey said...

Kiss Goodnight looks and sounds really cute!

Michelle Wallace said...

Happy New Year, Tonja!

Do we ever have enough time to write? I suppose we have to make the time.
A really good idea to blend the two blogs into one.