Review: I DARE YOU NOT TO YAWN

I dare you not to love it. Okay, yes, that was a cheap play on the title of Hélène Boudreau and Serge Bloch’s picture book, I Dare You Not to Yawn, but it’s true. And I’m going to tell you why, or at least why I loved it.

But first, here’s your warning:

Basically, I can’t tell you why I like this book without telling you what I like. So here goes.

I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while, because I love the premise. We all know  how hard it is not to yawn once you get started, and we all know that–as Boudreau’s little hero says, “Yawns are like colds. They spread!” What I hadn’t thought about, but what Boudreau did, is that yawning could have a consequence. And the consequence she chose is what makes this book special, what makes it totally about and for children. (Okay, for me, too, but you know what I mean.)

If you yawn, AND HERE’S YOUR SPOILER, someone will decide that it’s your bedtime.  Ack! When this disaster strikes, the narrative and the illustration combine to capture the child we all know, the one that cannot believe what the adult world is handing him. Seriously?! One little yawn?! Beautiful.

And then…MORE SPOILERS! Boudreau amps up the story. She absolute rocks the concrete detail throughout the book, from the specific activities that a yawn can interrupt (“dressing up the cat”) to all the pieces that make up a single yawn (“your eyes squish tight”) to the steps along the path to lights-out time (“sleepy-time songs”).  And this is just in the first part of the book. In the second, she brings in an entirely new layer of tension: all the “threats” of bedtime become irresistible temptations: “huggable stuffed animals, soft cozy pajamas…”  So, while the little boy still doesn’t want to go to bed and still fights the yawns with all his power, we can see his resistance weakening and–as with only the best stories–we are right there with him every second.

And the ending…Ha! Got you. You thought, with all the spoilers I’ve included so far, I was going to tell you how things turn out. NOT. All I want to say is that Boudreau made the brilliant choice of letting the art carry the final moment. I am totally a word person, and the whole way through, I was thinking, how is she going to do this? What is she going to write to tie things up as neatly as she needs to. I am not usually a proponent of the 1 picture = 1,000 words theory, but in this case? Oh, yeah.

So, you know, despite all the things I did tell you about I Dare You Not to Yawn, there are so many more that I didn’t. So go out, get yourself a copy, and fall in love for yourself.

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