A Contagious Idea: How Stop That Yawn! got started
There is a noble, ancient battle being fought in bedrooms every night, all over the world. Surely there must be some kid, somewhere, who can keep the blankets at bay!
This nightlight of an idea switched on as I watched a child struggling against sleep in a stroller on the bustling NYC subway. Clearly it was naptime; the child’s parents had a stuffed animal, a cozy blanket, and soothing sing-song voices to aid their efforts. Lips sealed, face wiggled, eyes widened but the yawns were coming in waves—how could the child possibly resist? I thought of my niece and nephew jumping on the bed, demanding water, snacks, more stories, fewer blankets, and favorite superhero pajamas fetched from the wash. I recalled sending my Omi up and down the stairs for juice and begging my other grandmother for stories. To keep the covers off, kids will use flattery, tantrums, their adorability—and of course, their imaginations. Imagination is a determined child’s best ally when railing against bedtime—and when pursuing their dreams.
Gabby Wild arrived when the combined spirit of so many girls I’ve known as an educator, neighbor, friend, and aunt came skipping down my Brooklyn block one day and into my imagination, "high-fiving leaves", singing, and owning the streets of her city. With her loving and vibrant grandmother following from a supportive distance, she was pursuing an adventure of her own creation. Keeping up with boundless kid energy is not a tireless task for anyone, let alone a grandparent— but, while working with some of the growing number of grandparents who are parenting young kids, I learned that keeping "up” is both a particular challenge and joy. Any adult willing to stifle a yawn and go along for a child’s ride is a gift—a security blanket with wings, enabling that kid to soar.
Growing up in the city that never sleeps, of course I wanted to “party ALLLL night!” One special New Year’s Eve, my friend’s dad took us on a midnight walk. We strolled through the Plaza Hotel (Eloise’s home!), where people dressed in fancy clothes were drinking sparkles, dancing and laughing, proving to me that nighttime is a magical place. Far more magical, though, is the Never Sleeping City created by LeUyen Pham. Waiting to see our book was more excruciatingly exciting than waiting for the ball to drop in Times Square ever was. I knew LeUyen’s work would be fantastic, but these pages are beyond my wildest dreams.
Studies have indicated that the more familiar people are with each other, the more contagious the yawn. The first time I saw this story read out loud was when my mom read an early draft to her Never Sleeping grandchild, and within pages, everyone—including me—was yawning—and laughing. Yawns may make us sleepy, but they also connect, delight, and intrigue us. It thrills me to think Stop That Yawn! might help families share yawns, stories, and perhaps even a few zzzs together. Who knows; perhaps out there, somewhere, is a Never Sleeping reader who will indeed discover how to Stop That Yawn!
Be A Wild Writer! Try this Writing Prompt: If I Could Stay Up All Night…
(What would you do? Where would you go? Who would you party all night with?)