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The Picture Book Buzz

Little Bat in Night School - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

First things first - the winner of the giveaway for Listen by Gabi Snyder and Stephanie Graegin is . . .

Rebecca Gardyn Levington

Congratulations Rebecca!

NOW, this week's #PPBF book is one of the most adorable "first day of school" books I have ever seen. But it's so much more. In addition to the expected "making new friends" thread, it addresses the need for free, unstructured time to play, invent, and explore. As well as our general propensity to compare ourselves to others and make self-defeating judgments on our own abilities. This humorous and creative picture book tenderly wings into your heart, carrying some powerful thought-provoking moments.

Little Bat in Night School

Author/Illustrator: Brian Lies

Publisher: HMH Books (2021)

Ages: 4-7



First day of school, friendship, kindness, and bravery.


Little Bat can't wait for his first night of school. He is excited about everything: his new school supplies, learning amazing things, and making new friends.

But when he finally arrives, his world turns upside down.

Any little bat who's tried something new or gone somewhere they've never been before knows that first times can be scary. With the help of Little Bat and his adorable classmates, readers will see that spreading your wings is easy when you listen, act with kindness, and take a chance on new friends.

With his signature, gorgeous artwork, New York Times bestseller and Caldecott Honor winner Brian Lies brings his expressive bats back for the youngest readers.

Opening Lines:

Little Bat was ready. He had everything he needed...

… except maybe some patience.

When is sunset?

Is it time to go yet?

How about now?


School is going to be so much fun!

How about now?

I can't wait to meet the other bats!

“Shh,” Mama Bat yawned, awakened for the umpteenth time. “Rest.”

What I LOVED about this book:

This book has such a great opening. Kids (and I imagine quite a few adults) will easily relate to Little Bat's enthusiasm and difficulty in sleeping on the eve of his first night of school. And more than a few adults will recall having been on the receiving end of a battery of similar questions. And I love the use of "umpteenth"!

Text and Image © Brian Lies, 2021.

I adore Brian Lies snappy dialogue, wry humor, succinct text, and elaborately detailed illustrations. Those cricket/grasshopper legs poking out of the backpack are hysterical! And is that a caterpillar "pom-pom" as a zipper pull? Brian's done such a great job of exploring the "first day of school" with a setting and "routine" that a child will easily relate to yet filled with touches and elements unique to these nocturnal "students."

Text and Image © Brian Lies, 2021.

Little Bat experiences the doubt and worry of a new place/experience (when school was bigger than expected), isolation (when the only two other bats refuse to let him join them), and initial desire to go home common for many kids on their first day of school. When Little Bat hides in the coat cubby, he discovers Ophelia - a opossum also hiding from the others. And forming a connection, a friendship begins to develop. Although they seem a little different (roadkill for lunch), this class still experiences show & tell, circle time, songs, and lessons. And of course recess! Just like the child reader.

Text and Image © Brian Lies, 2021.

Brian also includes a few thought-provoking gems for the kids and their readers. The first occurs during art, where Little Bat's comparison of his clay sculpture causes feelings of inadequacy. His ferret classmate reacts by insisting that "practice makes better! . . . Everyone can get better." The goal of art is not perfection, but the excitement that comes with getting better. There is a lot that could be unpacked here - perfectionism, discouragement in art classes (intentional or not), and self-criticism.

The second gem is the joy and creativity that results from unstructured play time. Oh my gosh, wait until you see the illustrations for the creations these animals invent - they are things that kids will have so much fun emulating and then expanding upon! Unguided play is so important at all ages. This is a great example of weaving important threads, or themes, into the story without being didactic. And to top it all off, the ending is a perfect wrap back to the beginning and so beautiful.

Humor abounds in the text, with word play ("The Seals on the Bus") and wry jokes, and throughout the bright, bold illustrations (a bat with floaties & a mounted cephalopod warrior). Brian's characters are so expressive and emotionally resonant. This is a great book for a first day at school (or anything new), working through classroom dynamics, and creating friendships. One I hope this books ends up in schools, libraries, and homes everywhere.


- make a paper tube Little Bat ( and Ophelia opossum ( What will be their next adventure?

- have you ever been new to a playgroup or school classroom? Write, or draw a picture, about your experience.

- create or draw a picture of your own idea for a vehicle using found items.

- what would you take to 'show and tell' ? Why?

- what's your favorite food to eat for lunch? What do wish you could eat? Is there anything you don't like for lunch?

If you missed it, be sure to check out Monday's interview with Brian Lies (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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