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Archive for December 16th, 2018

by Sam Juliano

Few might realize that about half of adults that yawn do so after seeing another engaging  in the all-too-familiar and reflexive open-mouth inhale.  “Contagious yawning” is now regarded as a universal phenomenon, though news studies have concluded this visible expression of exhaustion is actually no longer linked to variables like lethargy, energy or depleted energy levels.  Yet, yawning persists when one is tired or bored and the act more often than not precedes deep slumber.  A yawn can be insulting when it occurs at a live musical or dramatic performance  or downright rude in a more intimate classroom environment, especially when the yawner doesn’t cover his or her mouth.  Sometimes just as difficult to suppress as a burp, sneeze, cough or unconscious snore, the action makes a statement, one always always unflattering, but sometimes as an instinctive reaction to what a person sees, hears or senses, even in some substantiated instances when someone reads the word in passage or word bubble.  The picture book author Caron Levis has taken this concept to plague-like proportions in the delightfully anarchic Stop That Yawn!, a sometimes uproarious tale about how a single yawn develops into a torrent which once unleashed will similarly affect unsuspecting urban residents, in a manner recalling the spores on the planet Omicron Ceti III in the original Star Trek Season 1 episode “This Side of Paradise”, which induced elation and the poppies that brought on sleep in the field en-route to the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz.  Never before in literature has a yawn led to such epic proportions, but Caron and her talented artist LeUyen Pham sustain a potent measure of merriment as one after the other fails to properly negotiate the surefire way to curb a yawn, by biting one’s teeth and sealing one’s lips.  Unlike the terrifying ramifications facing those who failed to stay awake in the 1956 film classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers those in the path of the yawn torrent end up with more shut-eye than scheduled, which all things considered in a place where far too many burn the candles at both ends might be a welcome development.

The credo of Stop That Yawn! is nonetheless a mission to stop the yawn from compromising the reputation of a city that never sleeps, one where concerts, carnivals, opera house and eateries among other round-the-clock establishments operate well into the night.  A young African-American girl has had her fill of bedtime, and she attempts to enact a 24-7 much as Elmo did when he wished Christmas would fall on every day of the year, and basically the results are the same.  The metaphorical yawn presented to children as an expanding pestilence rather than an inevitable result of staying up into the wee-hours of the morning has a cumulative effect, one where exposure without exception leads to physical surrender.  Gabby Wild came around to the position that bedtime was a major bore, and a waste of time that would be so much better spent doing exciting and fulfilling things.  Heck, with roughly a third of one’s time in horizontal mode one can hypothetically agree with this spirited girl’s view of the wasted hours invested in do-nothing slumber.  She persuades her Granny to depart their somnolent environs, with the destination a place called Never Sleeping City.  Pajamas, slippers and pillows of course are persona non gratta in this land of an ongoing adrenaline rush, and en-route they work on the art of keeping one’s eyes open.  That’s the basic premise of a picture book that lovingly evokes Maurice Sendak’s Caldecott Honor winner In the Night Kitchen with its bold and colorful cartoon-styled vignettes and word bubbles.  Levis’s illustrator is the enormously gifted LeUyen Pham, whose croquille and India ink on bristol board panels are strikingly colored digitally. (more…)

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