Don't Think About Purple Elephants
written by Susan Whelan; illustrated by Gwynneth Jones
2015 (Exisle Publishing)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
Sophie's worries made it hard for her to get to sleep and she was often tired in the mornings.
Ever been grateful for four hours of sleep? I have. When you lie in bed and can't get your mind to shut off, you are grateful to drift off to sleep for a few hours and not stay up all night. Of course, you will be having a soda as part of your breakfast of champions the next morning. Sans the caffeine, Sophie had a similar problem. During the day, everything was spectacular. She was busy and happy, but at night was when the worrying began. "What if there wasn't enough milk for her to have cereal?" she thought. Other possible problems lingered in her mind as well. The next morning, she was worn out and not up for her favorite daytime activities. Sophie's family was sympathetic and offered several solutions, but each came with new perils. Finally, her mom gave a simple piece of advice which was "Don't Think About Purple Elephants." One of the qualities of moms is that they are sneaky. In conjunction with this, they are also smarter than we are but use that power for good and not evil. Mom's advice sounded strange to Sophie, but when followed it did the trick. Sophie woke up the next morning refreshed enough to have a great day.
Not being able to sleep is a common problem for kids and adults. In this book, I really appreciate how supportive Sophie's family is to her dilemma. Everyone, including the cat, tried to help her. That thought can be transferred to the classroom as we try to help each other in the classroom each day. Another good use of this book is in teaching the skill of finding the problem and solution. I would ask students to conjure up their solutions for trying to fall asleep. Don't Think About Purple Elephants would also be a good book to contrast with Wemberly Worried, a classic picture book written by Kevin Henkes. Ask students to write about what is the same and what is different between the two books.
While you're not thinking about purple elephants, you might also avoid thinking about pink and yellow hippos. That works for me.