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Does Can You Yawn Like A Fawn? actually help kids sleep?

Books that act as sleep aids are the new must-have items for parents of small kids, but it’s difficult to know if they’ll perform as promised. Monica Sweeney’s Can You Yawn Like a Fawn?  is the latest sleepy-time book in town, and I tried it out on my own young kids to see if it would work some nighttime magic.

The premise for Can You Yawn Like a Fawn? is pretty simple. Like other sleep books, it offers instructions for how it should be read. Certain words and phrases are bolded or italicized so that parents can emphasize them as they read. The instructions also encourage you to incorporate your child’s name into the reading, as well as yawn… a lot.

More: Does The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep really put kids to sleep?

The book starts out by letting the reader know that all the little animals in the world are going to sleep. Once we’ve established that it’s bedtime in the animal kingdom, readers go animal by animal, saying goodnight to each one and practicing their yawns. For example:

“In the land down under, silly kangaroo hops and hops until she has hopped herself out, phew! She snuggles into bed and yawns a happy yawn. Can you yawn like a kangaroo?”

You go through the same routine with a mouse, a penguin, a duck and — spoiler alert — a fawn. In total, readers say goodnight to and yawn along with 12 animals, and then at the end you yawn and say goodnight to your child. It’s a sweet concept and one that’s much more kid-friendly than some of its competitors, like The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep.

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I tested out The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep a few months ago and found it a bit creepy, to be honest. The Rabbit is lengthy — it took at least 30 minutes to get through it — and the story is so dependent upon robotic repetitions to get kids to go to sleep that it almost reads as if there’s no plot. Can You Yawn Like a Fawn? succeeds admirably in eliminating some of those issues and putting the tactics of a sleep aid into a story that is actually engaging and sweet. Small kids will enjoy it, and it features some truly stunning illustrations:

Panda bears from 'Can You Yawn Like A Fawn'
Image: Macmillan
Deer running through meadow
Image: Macmillan

So, the burning question parents have is: Does the book work? The answer to that depends on what you’re hoping to accomplish. I read it to both my 4-year-old and my 18-month-old, and while both enjoyed it, it did not have the hypnotic effects that some parents probably want. Neither of them fell asleep while I was reading, nor did they succumb to their exhaustion immediately after. That said, both of them enjoyed the pictures and the opportunity to mimic their best baby animal yawns. Both of them also seemed more calm at the end of the book, like they were ready for sleep.

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In general, the book does what it sets out to accomplish in that it soothes kids, it gets them focused on bedtime and it relaxes them into the process of falling asleep. Even better, it does all of this while still being engaging and fostering bonding time between parent and child, rather than just mechanically coaxing kids into a deep slumber. Your kids might still be awake when you’re done reading, but it’s a charming book that’s worth adding to any small child’s collection.

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