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Can’t You Sleep Little Bear? A Beloved Bedtime Story

Jan’s Book Reviews for Children Ages Birth to Five  

By Jan Parish, M.Ed.

“I don’t like the dark,”

said Little Bear.

“What dark?” said Big Bear.

“The dark all around us,”

said Little Bear.

(from Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear? by Martin Waddell)

can't you sleep little bear


In this tender bedtime story, Big Bear and Little Bear play all day in the snow and go to the Bear Cave for a warm night’s sleep. But Little Bear is scared of the dark. “Can’t you sleep?” asks Big Bear.

“I’m scared,” said Little Bear.

Understanding Little Bear’s bedtime fear, Big Bear lights lanterns in the Bear Cave to chase away the dark. But Small Bear is still afraid. He wants Big Bear to chase away the dark outside the Bear Cave. Patiently, Big Bear leads his toddler out into the nighttime and offers a sweet surprise.

Satisfied that he’s safe, Little Bear snuggles into Big Bear’s arms and falls fast asleep.

This enduring bedtime classic has been called “the most perfect children’s book ever written or illustrated” by the Sunday Times of London. Firth’s soft, watercolor pictures bring the lovable characters to life, capturing the compassion of Big Bear and intense emotions of Little Bear.

Martin Waddell belongs among the best. One of the most prolific and successful children’s writers of his time, Martin Waddell has written more than eighty storybooks for children. In Waddell’s gentle but powerful text, he writes about a child’s feelings, from fear of the dark, to separation anxiety, to the fear of being lost and the relief of being found. He connects to the basic emotions of childhood with genuine affection.

In our home, Martin’s words helped us parent through many early childhood experiences. We read Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear? at bedtime when our little guy was scared of “the dark all around us.” We read Owl Babies to our little girl every time I left on a business trip. We giggled with Farmer Duck as farmyard friends gave a lazy farmer his just reward. Waddell’s reassuring stories have become warm, familiar friends to our children in our home. That’s what good children’s literature is all about.


Jan002P2web_1Jan Parish, M.Ed., is a nationally-known early childhood consultant and parent/grandparent educator with twenty-seven years experience as an author, teacher, and early development specialist.


Visit Playful Early Learners for guidance on everyday learning, book reviews, and resources and workshops for parents/grandparents of children birth to age five.

Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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