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Can’t sleep? Read a book!

  • Mom to the rescue.

  • The protagonist tries reciting the alphabet to sleep.

Published: Sep 01, 2012

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Sometimes falling asleep isn’t as easy as you think – and anxiety sure doesn’t help. But in a new children’s book released last month, the task takes on epic proportions.

“I Can’t Sleep”, the first book from Turtle Back Publishing, takes a trip into the mind of its young protagonist as he tries to fall asleep at night. Each trick he recalls to help lull him into slumber – such as counting potcakes, reciting the alphabet and imagining a relaxing place – comes with a new set of worries for the young fourth grader until his parents help him place that anxiety aside for the morning, allowing him to finally succumb to much-needed rest.

Author of the book, Allie MacPhail, says the story itself was written all in one night as she too had trouble falling asleep. However, with her background in marriage and family therapy, MacPhail aims to educate with her book as well, helping children and their parents understand that trouble sleeping is common and normal and the best ways to cope with such a problem.

“Not sleeping well due to stress is not a new complaint, but I do find it’s getting worse for kids and parents too because we have a lot coming at us and everything is so fast-paced, and kids have to learn how to deal with that,” she says.

“I think as parents because we have serious concerns, we tend to minimalize the concerns of our children, but what we need to do is teach them how to cope with concerns they have so when they get bigger they’ll have some coping mechanisms already in place,” she adds. “It gives us an opportunity not only to help them in the moment but to be a role model and prepare them for adulthood.”

For that reason, MacPhail includes a letter at the end to parents to help them understand and form correct responses to the anxiety of their children.

However, the book too is all about making light of the issue in order to normalize it, says MacPhail – and the illustrations by Bahamian artist Jace McKinney capture that spirit entirely. McKinney’s unmistakable style and technique in his artistic practice lends itself to illustration, making him a perfect fit for “I Can’t Sleep!” Plus, MacPhail – originally from Canada – wanted to collaborate with an artist in her new home.

“We really clicked – it was fabulous working with him,” says MacPhail. “We had fun planning it. The cool thing is that he’s made these great individual characters that come alive out of this boy’s stress, so each character has it’s own personality.”

For McKinney, the characters were born as soon as he first read the story, which reminded him of his childhood books and TV shows. He couldn’t pass up a chance to bring the characters to life and provide an engaging story about a contemporary issue to Bahamian children.

“Reading Allie’s story, I just felt drawn to it,” he says. “The images just popped into my head. The story had a certain level of coziness to it which I would like to see in my own stories.”

Indeed, McKinney, like MacPhail, is working on more stories to bring to Bahamian children. For MacPhail, this second book pending from Turtle Back Press will continue to use the genre of children’s books to help kids and teenagers work through trauma. For McKinney, whose projects include an illustrated story about Bahamian history, these children’s stories are a chance to build up Bahamian literature and provide contemporary and engaging work.

“I’m very interested in developing literature for kids in the country,” he says. “I don’t feel that we have very few books for kids to reflect on, especially Bahamian-made. I remember reading the Peter and Jane books in primary school and I had no interest in them. It was foreign to me and dated.”

“I remember going into a Barnes and Noble and seeing all of these children’s books that deal with current issues and that’s something that needs to happen at home,” he continues. “So I think as a country we are ready to step forward and develop these things culturally. At the same time, there’s no one recording our history. So I’d like to develop this, bring awareness, record history, educate – in a fun way for everyone.”


• “I Can’t Sleep!” is available locally at Logos Bookstore, Buy the Book, Nassau Stationers, Doongalik Studios, Bahamas Art & Handicraft, Bahama Sol and The Linen Shop, as well as at the Caribbean Centre for Child Development, who will donate $2 per purchased book towards The Seahorse Institute which supports children with autism.

If you are interested in carrying this book in your store  please send inquiries to turtlebackpublishing@live.com. Media Enterprises also have the book on their selling list. If you are in Canada or USA, to order the book you can visit www.alliemacphail.com/#turtlebackpublishing.

Be sure to find and Like Turtle Back Publishing on Facebook and twitter (@turtle_back).

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