The World Champion of Staying Awake


Written by Sean Taylor, Illustrated by Jimmy Liao

Candlewick Press, 2011

“Good night, Stella,” says Dad. “Time to go to bed.”

The plot in a nutshell: A girl puts her three wide awake toys to bed.

Three of Stella’s toys (Cherry Pig, Thunderbolt the mouse and Beanbag Frog) are still wide awake and she needs to put them to bed before she can go to bed herself. Cherry Pig declares herself the world champion of staying awake. Stella puts all three of them on a pillow and pretends it’s a ship. They imagine the waves and the sea creatures in the water beneath them as Stella sings them a little song about how safe and comfortable they all are. Cherry Pig falls fast asleep and Thunderbolt claims the title of being the world champion of staying awake. Stella puts them in a shoe box and pretends it’s a train. After singing a little song about the motion of the train, Stella sees that Thunderbolt has fallen asleep. Beanbag Frog takes over as world champion and Stella puts him in a basket, pretending it’s a balloon. After another song, Beanbag Frog is asleep and Stella tucks them into bed, climbs in and, after a brief moment where she holds the title of world champion of staying awake, she falls asleep, too.

Author Sean Taylor brings us a classic bedtime book plot, involving a little girl who doesn’t want to go to bed, and makes it special by giving this little girl an amazing imagination. I love the idea of her putting her stuffed animals to sleep by pretending they are on dream journeys. These journeys are told in rhyme, although the rest of book is not. It sets the dreams apart and gives them a relaxing feel and it’s not surprising at all that each dream results in one of her friends drifting off to sleep.

Everyone's asleep

Stella looks wiped out from the effort of getting her little ones to sleep.  Guess she’s prepared for motherhood.

Illustrator Jimmy Liao’s watercolor artwork changes tone with the dream journeys as well. During the framework story, there are smaller pictures on each text page. But during the dream poetry, this changes to full double page spreads full of color and detail. There are lots of beautiful landscapes here and each one is a perfect visual companion to the rhyming text, helping to enhance the feeling of calm and relaxation. The full story takes a little longer to read than many bedtime books, but it’s worth the extra time.

And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that your imagination can help take you anywhere you want to go, even to sleep.


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