Today, I have the pleasure of talking with author Jackie Azúa Kramer about her love of travel, little piggies, and, of course, getting kids to sleep.
What inspired you to write If You Want to Fall Asleep?
This weekend is Mother’s Day! So, I wish all the Mamas out there a very Happy Mother’s Day! When you meet Mama Mouse in my story, and her child Little Mouse, I am sharing a small window into my world as a young mom. After many sleep-deprived nights with my kids, I discovered there’s no one way, no one method, to get your over-tired, yet filled-with-imaginative-excuses, little one to bed. It seemed the moment I was high-fiving and declaring, “I got this!” was when it all changed. My kids behaved about bedtime as if sleep was a test like in The Princess and the Pea. I wanted to capture the crazy moments that make you wonder why you chose to be a mom while at the same time wish this time wasn’t so fleeting. Mama Mouse is every mother who loves her child.
What was your favorite way to get to sleep as a child?
I don’t know why, but I needed to create the feeling of being in a burrow or cave. So, I would pull the blanket way over my head and disappear under the covers. I still do that sometimes. Blushing.
On your website you have a picture of your writing space. Could you describe it a little and talk about your collection of piggies?
My piggies!!! Years ago, when I was in college, a friend gave me a small, blown-glass pig. I was enchanted by its delicacy and size. Like ‘Tennessee Williams’ I began collecting my own “glass menagerie.” The collection has grown and now includes pigs made of ceramic, clay, wood, pewter, silver, plastic, and even candy.
Wherever I travel, I always try and find a pig that reflects the culture. For example, I have two ceramic pigs from Italy that remind me of the farms I saw in the countryside. The best thing about the collection is that some are gifts from family and friends. Each pig has its own story loaded with good memories!
You also have a snapshot of you and a young girl you met while volunteering. Can you talk about your volunteering efforts around the world? How did you get started? Do you have an anecdote you’d like to share? Has volunteering influenced your writing?
I’ve travelled around the world most of my life. Meeting new people, new vistas, history, and culture is my true heart’s desire. Volunteering took travel to another level. Unfortunately, I’ve only had the opportunity to volunteer once in Israel and Ecuador.
My father was born in Ecuador, and I had visited as a young girl, but I always knew I wanted to return. I can still hear the laughter of the young Quechua woman living in the remote village near a dormant volcano. Her smile came so easily and naturally, all the while knowing that the little she had (by American standards), came from very hard work, patience, and a good attitude. I’m not sure what she learned from me, if anything, but I’m certainly grateful and honored to have spent time in her beautiful country.
What’s the best part of being a children’s author?
There’s much to love! The practice and process of writing. Seeing your ideas develop into a story then become a book and go out into the universe. The generous people that I’ve met in the kidlit world and had the pleasure to work with—editors and illustrators.
The passionate librarians and teachers who invite me into their classrooms. Each time I hope it’s a reciprocal experience—that the students and I may learn something about each other’s world experience.
Number one on the love hit-parade are the readers that share how my story touched or inspired them or made them feel or think. Perhaps my story inspired them to write or draw their own story. It’s crazy to think, but all it takes is one person, one story to make a difference in a child’s life.
What’s up next for you?
I’m so excited about my next two picture books which share the same super-cute, super-spunky, and super-fun protagonist, Prunella or Pru. The reader is introduced to Prunella in That’s for Babies (Clavis, 2018), and in Miles Won’t Smile (Clavis, 2019) we meet her new baby brother, Miles. I feel names in stories are important; Prunella’s name reflects how properly silly and human she is. In addition, I’m thrilled to work again with illustrator Lisa Brandenburg.
The Boy and the 800 Pound Gorilla (Candlewick Press, 2020) is a story near and dear to my heart. A picture book about a boy, his father, and loss. As I mentioned earlier, one of the joys of what I do is working with illustrators. I can’t wait to discover other layers revealed in my story by illustrator, Cindy Derby. Here’s one of Cindy’s stunning illustrations (not for the book).
What is your favorite holiday?
Thanksgiving! Food, family and fun! There’s a little Martha Stewart in me. I love pulling out all my favorite recipes, buying the freshest and best ingredients and setting a beautiful table. Full and happy bellies lead to (hopefully) good times. My kitchen table before the cooking gets started!
Thanks so much for chatting, Jackie! I wish you all the best with If You Fall Asleep and all of your books!
Stay Up All Night Night Review
About the Holiday
Sure, everyone pulls all-nighters sometimes for work or school, and kids revel in pushing their bedtimes later and later. The founders of today’s holiday understand the lure of nighttime and present the perfect chance to stay up late and have some fun with friends and family. They also honor all of those people who work the night shift and encourage the rest of us to appreciate the sacrifices they make to keep hospitals, safety services, and other necessary businesses operating twenty-four hours a day. This worldwide celebration is sure to be a favorite with kids, so why not plan a sleepover or a family game night and enjoy the nightlife?!
If You Want to Fall Asleep
Written by Jackie Azúa Kramer | Illustrated by Lisa Brandenburg
No sooner had Mama Mouse tucked Little Mouse into bed, kissed him on the head, and closed the door then Little Mouse began jumping on the bed calling, “‘I can’t sleep.’” Mama had a little advice: “If you want to fall asleep and you’re jumping on your bed… / Read pages in a story. / Not one or two or three, / but the whole book, from cover to cover.” Imagining adventures will fill the time while you “wait for yawning.”
Pretty soon, Little Mouse interrupted Mama Mouse’s sweeping. He had read his favorite book and still wasn’t tired. Mama encouraged her little one to think about the pancakes and berries he’d have in the morning, and “wait for stretching.” In a bit, Mama Mouse heard Little Mouse “rocking and rolling in his bed.” She suggested, “If you want to fall asleep and you’re tossing and turning… / Snuggle up to things that are soft” and will remind you of friends and family, pets and toys.
But even though Little Mouse tried it, he was still wide awake. He slid down the banister right to where Mama was having tea. She had just the thing to make her child sleepy and told him to count the stars and “remember wishes: birthday wishes, secret wishes, dream wishes. And wait for dozing.” The house was quiet as Mama read her book, but then she heard her Little Mouse still awake.
Mama Mouse knew one more remedy that was sure to make Little Mouse comfy and cozy and ready for sleep. She knelt down and hugged Little Mouse and he hugged her with “a warm embrace forever.” Then, said Mama, “when your heart feels full of love, remember dreams to come: sweet dreams, good dreams, peaceful dreams.” Little Mouse didn’t have to “wait for yawning”…or stretching… or even dozing because he was fast asleep.
Jackie Azúa Kramer’s sweet bedtime story combines a twinkle of endearing mischief with the comfort of a lullaby to float little ones off to sleep and reassure them that they are always loved. As Little Mouse goes through the stages of sleeplessness—jumping on the bed, tossing and turning, staring at the ceiling, snuggling with toys, and frequent visits to mom in between—young readers will giggle with recognition. Mama Mouse’s suggestions of stories, treats, favorite loveys, and making wishes will make little ones cuddle up more closely, and her final solution of lots of hugs will spark plenty of real ones between adult and child. Kramer’s story line and realistic dialogue from Little Mouse flow nicely into the lilting rhythm of Mama’s poetic remedies. Both include repeated phrasing that children will enjoy reading along with.
Lisa Brandenburg’s illustrations are as softly hued as a dream and include the kinds of details kids love lingering over. Little Mouse’s vivid imagination is fully evident as, from under the covers, he peeks with one eye at his toys beckoning for a little more playtime. These toys continue their nighttime capers, spilling out from Little Mouse’s room every time he gets up to join him in frolicking, hiding, and ultimately helping Mama put her sleepy one to bed. Throughout, Brandenburg includes visual humor and puns that kids and adults will enjoy. Readers will love keeping track of Little Mouse’s beloved kitty, and be ready to snooze with the whole crew (except Little Mouse?!) as they happily doze on the final page.
Rest assured, If You Want to Fall Asleep is a dreamy bedtime story that kids will want to hear again and again. It would be a star on any child’s bookshelf.
Ages 3 – 6
Clavis Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1605373959
Discover more about Jackie Azúa Kramer and her books on her website.
To learn more about Lisa Brandenburg, her art, and her books, visit her website.
You can find If You Want to Fall Asleep at these booksellers
You can connect with Jackie Azúa Kramer on
Stay Up All Night Night Activity
Even if you can’t sleep, you can still dream! With this easy-to-make dream catcher, kids can keep their dreams until they all come true!
- Small wooden or plastic embroidery hoop
- Colorful rubber bands or hair bands
- Yarn or string
- Three medium plastic or wooden beads
- Three smaller plastic or wooden beads or perler beads
- Two feathers
- Separate the embroidery hoop sections
- Stretch different colored rubber bands around the smaller hoop
- If the larger hoop has a screw on it, put it back on and tighten the screw
- Measure a length of yarn or string and slip it between the screw and hoop
- Making one side longer than the other, tie a knot to secure it to the screw
- If the embroidery hoop has no screw, lay two or three differing lengths of yarn or string between the two sections of the hoop before you put the top on
- String on beads and tie a knot to secure them
- Add feathers
- Tie a string or yarn to the top of the dream catcher to hang it.
Picture book review