‘Yanni the Yawning Yak’: La Jollan’s first book aims to ease bedtime woes

La Jolla resident Ethan Pilkenton-Getty wrote his first book to help toddlers like his godson, Noah Conroy, fall asleep.
La Jolla resident Ethan Pilkenton-Getty wrote his first book to help toddlers like his godson, Noah Conroy, fall asleep quickly.
(Provided by Ethan Pilkenton-Getty)

For parents who struggle to achieve a peaceful, easy bedtime routine with their toddlers, a La Jolla businessman has authored his first book in an attempt to alleviate strife around sleep.

Ethan Pilkenton-Getty, a Windansea resident, wrote “Yanni the Yawning Yak,” which was published in early December and contains interactive stories to get toddlers to imitate yawns, which is intended to naturally induce sleepiness.

In the story, young child Noah (based on the author’s 2.5-year-old godson Noah Conroy) is having trouble falling asleep when he hears a loud sound outside. The noise is made by Yanni the Yawning Yak trying to set up a tent to get out of the rain in Noah’s yard. Noah begins asking the yak questions and Yanni yawns, which Noah finds funny.

Yanni takes Noah through lessons on how several different animals — from A to Z — yawn, teaching the boy that yawning “is not something to judge on; it’s something to embrace, that we should all find beautiful,” Pilkenton-Getty said. Over the course of the story, the reader is encouraged to yawn dozens of times, Pilkenton-Getty said, which is “hopefully enough to start making you a little tired.”

The story is based on his own research about yawning as a “natural sleep trigger. … There’s not a lot of answers around the origins of yawning. … But what we do know is it’s contagious,” he said. “It’s pretty effective for most people. If someone yawns, it triggers someone else too.”

In reaching out to various experts, Pilkenton-Getty found “there’s a lot of social animals, like lions [and] chimpanzees, that also yawn and it’s a very similar reaction. … It spans across a lot of different mammals. “

He then incorporated much of what he learned into the book and its characters.

He jokingly said it’s an unfortunate hazard of the book that parents will yawn and be sleepy, too, but the feedback from readers so far, including the real-life Noah, is the book is effective at achieving its goals.

"Yanni the Yawning Yak" hopes to make bedtime more efficient by encouraging multiple yawns while reading.
“Yanni the Yawning Yak” hopes to make bedtime more efficient by encouraging multiple yawns while reading.
(Provided by Ethan Pilkenton-Getty)

“Everyone I’ve talked to say it’s helped … give them more time back in their evening” by having their children go to sleep sooner, Pilkenton-Getty said.

“The kids seem to find it very entertaining at first,” he said. On successive nightly reads, “they start to start to get a little bit more tired than the first read.”

Although not a parent himself, Pilkenton-Getty, a business consultant, was inspired to write “Yanni the Yawning Yak” a year and a half ago, after traveling to visit friends with young children.

“A big issue they’re all facing [is they] have to go through five books to put [their] kid to sleep,” he said, adding his friends wished for a more efficient bedtime routine.

Pilkenton-Getty said writing the book was “a learning process,” with a lot of unforeseen challenges, such as finding a publisher, and delays brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said the agency he hired was very helpful in sourcing others to assist in editing, illustrating and printing.

“I’m really happy with the way the book came out,” Pilkenton-Getty said. “It definitely took longer than we wanted, but … it was a lot of fun. I learned a lot going along the way.”

Pilkenton-Getty hopes parents around the world “are able to leverage this book [to] help their kids learn a little bit more about some animals [and] geography, but also go to sleep more quickly and peacefully.”

He added some of the proceeds from book sales will go to Ferst Readers, a nonprofit that endeavors to provide high-quality books to needy younger children.

“Yanni the Yawning Yak” is available for purchase for $15.95. Learn more or purchase the book: ◆