written by Jane Smiley; illustrated by Lauren Castillo
2016 (Two Lions)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
Lucy slipped out of bed and padded to the door. Her dad was snoring in the living room.
Lucy's family is having a wonderful day at the beach. She buries her dad in the sand. He helps her fly a kite. The two of them and Mom roll down the dunes. This is the most time they have ever spent at the beach. As the family heads home, Mom announces "Early bedtime!" Seeing the exclamation mark, you know she's not messing around. With Lucy in bed and yawning, Mom begins reading a favorite bedtime story. The sound of zzzzzs fill the air. Except it's not Lucy. Mom is snoozing away in the chair. Having the roles reversed is like a jolt of caffeine to Lucy. She can't sleep with the silence only punctuated by Dad's snoring in the living room. She tiptoes to the shelf near the couch to find Molasses, her bear. He's tucked in behind stuffed friends on the shelf so when she retrieves him, all of the others fall to the carpet. A bear in tow, Lucy expects to drift back to bed. What happens instead raises the clever and sweet levels of this superb new bedtime tale.
I often use a thesaurus to try and avoid repeating words in a blog post. Adorable, charming, and delightful help me avoid using cute a thousand times which is what I really want to do when describing this story and the wonderful illustrations. Just look at the cover! What puts Twenty Yawns in the top tier of bedtime stories is that it's savvy too. There are two twists in the story that should be used as a model for those of us who want to create picture books. If you want to write a really good one, you need to be this smart.
In the classroom, I would definitely use the bedtime part of the story as an example of a small moment story. This section takes a tiny piece of time and stretches it out with splendid details. It could also be a good book to give to a young friend who likes to count. One other possible exercise would be to challenge your class to think ahead to a twenty-first yawn. Where would it come from?
Twenty Yawns produced twenty smiles for me.