Time for Bed
“It’s time for bed, little mouse, little mouse,
Darkness is falling all over the house.
It’s time for bed, little goose, little goose,
The stars are out and on the loose . . .”
I was preparing a workshop one night for junior primary (lower elementary) teachers. My aim was to demonstrate ‘group writing’. I thought if I could find two good rhyming lines to start with we could finish the story together, much as the teachers might, with their own children in class. So I came up with:
‘It’s time for bed, little mouse, little mouse,
Darkness is falling all over the house.’
I liked it but wondered how difficult it would be to finish. Would the teachers and I be able to do it? I decided to try to finish it myself to see how hard it would be. I was so pleased with the first draft I read it to Malcolm who was crazy about it and said: ‘I think you’ve just written another book.’ I faxed it to my American editor, Allyn Johnston, at Harcourt Brace & Co, who had been asking for such a book. Then I re-read it and realised I had written stupid things like:
‘It’s time for bed, little fish, little fish,
So cross your fingers and make a wish.’
As if fish had fingers! Also the ‘time for bed’ and ‘time to sleep’ lines were haphazard so I made the first half of the book ‘time for bed’ and the second half ‘time to sleep’. In the end, frankly, I was inordinately thrilled with the hypnotic dreamy rhythm of it. So was my editor. Neither she nor I could believe I’d written it so fast. The book was accepted immediately and I was incredibly fortunate that the well-known American illustrator Jane Dyer had a window of time right then. She got to work straight away and produced the most perfect, endearing pictures for it.
Time for Bed has gone on to become my best selling book in the USA—it was in the best seller lists for a year when it first came out. in 1993. There is now a Big Book edition, a board-book edition for babies and another small edition under the Omnibus Bright Stars imprint.