Time for Bed

Illustrated by Jane Dyer

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 the teachers and I 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 very pleased with the first draft and realized that I had probably written a book in about an hour.

I bailed up my husband, who was reading, and said: ’I think I’ve written a book!’

‘I thought you were preparing a workshop,’ he said.

‘I was!’ I said. ‘And I’ve written a book!’

I read it to him and he was crazy about it (He isn’t always crazy about my first drafts.) I faxed it—yes, those were the days!—to my American editor, Allyn Johnston, at Harcourt Brace & Co, who had been asking for such a book. Then I re-read it and realized I had written silly 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 went to work straight away and produced the most perfect, endearing pictures for it. The rest is history.

Time for Bed has gone on to become my best selling book in the USA—it was on the bestseller lists in New York for over a year when it first came out in 1993 and has to date (2013) sold over 1.5 million copies.