Twenty Yawns

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Twenty Yawns Book Poster Image
Cozy, colorful bedtime tale helps kids count.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Opportunity to count to 20. Recognition of the word "yawn." Info about the beach and beach activities. Modeling of reading -- mom and dad are reading at the beach (a book and newspaper respectively), Mom reads Lucy a bedtime story, there are books pictured in a bookcase, Dad falls asleep reading a newspaper. Intro to lyrical language, such as, "The moon shone through the window, a silver veil that fell across the floor."

Positive Messages

Biracial family pictured in the art. When grown-ups are asleep and can't help you, you may be able to think of ways to help yourself.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Strong message about dealing with fears: When young girl finds herself awake and unnerved after both her parents fall asleep, she bravely gets out of bed to fetch her menagerie of stuffed animals for company and comfort, thus helping herself go to sleep.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Twenty Yawns pairs Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jane Smiley with Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator Lauren Castillo (Nana in the City) for a warm and fuzzy bedtime book. After a long day at the beach, Lucy's mom falls asleep reading a bedtime story, and Lucy feels uneasy awake and alone in the moonlight, but when she gathers her stuffed animals she's able to fall asleep. Castillo supplies the picture-book know-how, wordlessly presenting a biracial family and evoking the spookiness of moonlight with art that's brightly colorful and child-pleasing. As an educational bonus, kids can count the 20 yawns of the title. Good book to foster discussion about fear of the dark or to pair with a trip to the beach.

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What's the story?

In TWENTY YAWNS, Lucy's at the beach with her family. She and her parents spend the day playing -- reading under umbrellas, digging in the sand, flying a kite, taking a beach walk. At the end of the long, full day, the mom declares, "Early bedtime!" and then falls asleep reading Lucy her bedtime story, as does the dad. Lucy feels wide awake in the mysterious moonlight and can't fall asleep -- until she fetches her many stuffed animals and tucks them into bed. With one last yawn, she drifts to sleep herself.

Is it any good?

This bedtime book by novelist Jane Smiley, illustrated with warm-and-fuzzy coziness by picture-book pro Lauren Castillo, has a simple, time-tested story. At bedtime, everything looks spooky in the moonlight, so Lucy can't fall asleep, but she's able to do so when she snuggles with her stuffed animals. Illustrator Castillo gives readers lots to enjoy visually, wordlessly picturing a multiracial family not referenced in the text, painting the girl and family with warmth and appeal, and having fun with the details -- for instance, the pictures of family members mentioned in the text aren't photos but kid-drawn pictures taped up on the wall, as a family might do in a temporary beach rental.

This is also a counting book, with the 20 yawns in the title sprinkled throughout. Because each yawn is accompanied by the word in color and different type, they're easy to find, and if 20 objects is too many for the target preschool-age readers to count (and not just rattle off by rote), parents and kids can simply try to hunt for them.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about nighttime. Do you ever feel scared at night? What feels spooky? How do you comfort yourself?

  • Count the yawns. Can you find the word "yawn"? How does it look different from the other words?

  • Have you been to the beach? What do you like to do there?

Book details

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For kids who love picture and bedtime books

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