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STORY BEHIND THE BOOK

For Adam Gustavson, bedtime stories mean belly laughs

David Wilson for The Boston Globe

Adam Gustavson began working as a book illustrator in 1997, but his new children’s book, “The Froggies Do Not Want to Sleep,” is his debut as writer and illustrator. It allowed him to do what he loves most: make children laugh.

The book was inspired by an overheard conversation in which a parent complained about their child’s bedtime reading habits, and how hard it can be to put children to sleep. “And I thought, that’s not really why I read my kids bedtime stories. We always had fun,” Gustvason said. “And if they fell asleep right after, it was only because they got exhausted from laughing and running out of oxygen.”

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He’s lucky enough, he added, to have a handy group of his target audience — “giggling four-year-olds are sort of my people” — among his family and neighborhood, and he tried out the book’s material on them. “It is really exciting,” Gustavson said. “This is the first time I’ve gotten to do what I’m best at.”

So why frogs? And why in particular this type of frog: a very active, endlessly inventive crew who avoid bedtime by playing the accordion, burping, dressing up, and performing underwater ballet?

“Frogs are pretty humanlike if you move them around,” Gustvason said. “I knew I wanted animals that could jump and bounce and have a lot of energy, as the protagonists of the book.” Unlike bunnies, he pointed out, they have fingers: the better to play the accordion.

He hopes the book will make children laugh, and make bedtime as fun as his own remembered childhood bedtimes, when his mother would voice all the characters in books, and his father would create original stories. Also, he added, “I secretly wanted to make a book for aunts and uncles to give as gifts. Parents might be concerned about what their children are learning or be concerned about them falling asleep. And aunts and uncles need fun things to give. And sometimes aunts and uncles like giving gifts that wind up children.”

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Adam Gustavson will read 7 p.m. Tuesday in a virtual event hosted by An Unlikely Story.


Kate Tuttle, a freelance writer and critic, can be reached at kate.tuttle@gmail.com.