Charley's First Night by Amy Hest, pictures by Helen Oxenbury
Charley's First Night, written by Amy Hest and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury is every bit as sweet as you would expect from these two picture book veterans. The story is straightforward, but the telling and the cozy illustrations are what make this book so special.
Charley's First Night begins, "It was snowing that night, and Charley wanted me to carry him home." It's not entirely clear where Henry found Charley, but that is beside the point and allows Hest the wiggle room to write her story like Charley is a new baby being brought home. Henry shows Charley all over the house and Mom and Dad remind Henry of all the rules, from walking to feeding to sleeping. Charley will be sleeping in the kitchen.
Henry plops Charley down on his big, red pillow under the kitchen table and tucks his best teddy bear and a ticking clock to sound like a heartbeat next to Charley. My favorite scenes in the book are the illustrations of Henry and Charley on the big red dog bed, cuddled up and ready for sleep. Charley nods off, but "the crying started in the middle of the night and you knew right away it was Charley." Henry runs to him and comforts him and puts him back to bed in the kitchen. But, a long time later, the crying starts again. This time, even though his parents are very clear about where Charley should not sleep, Henry and Charley end up on his bed. They didn't mean to fall asleep, but they do and "that's exactly where we slept all through the night on Charley's first night."
The final illustration shows Henry and Charley tucked under the covers. In a mirror on the dresser, the reflection of Henry's smiling mother can be seen, gazing at the boy and his dog.