Think about all the things you hated doing as a young child — such as going to bed early.
Chicago author Clothilde Ewing’s new children’s book, Stella Keeps the Sun Up, follows a 6-year-old who dislikes bedtime so much that she schemes to keep the sun in the sky so she can stay up and play.
Parents of young children may be able to relate to the little girl’s shenanigans.
“Stella totally reminds me of that kid who is all about kid logic,” Ewing recently told WBEZ’s Reset. “She thinks she can figure out the world and it’s as simple as a movie.”
Ewing described her own children, who are 6 and 7-and-a-half years old, respectively, who think they are missing out on all the fun when they go to bed.
“So much fun happens. They don’t think about getting clean, about getting the work finished, that kind of thing,” Ewing said. “Stella is a celebration of that. She is someone who marches to her own beat at all times. […] She’s all about joy.
“I think that [mentality] is so special about kids in general,” Ewing continued. “I’m not sure when we lose some of that as adults, but my children are absolutely convinced they can take on the world.”
By the end of Stella Keeps the Sun Up, Stella decides she does not want to keep the sun up after all, but she perseveres in her efforts until she has that “aha!” moment.
On a deeper level, Ewing wanted to show the playful and imaginative spirits of Black children, along with honoring a child’s agency and their ability to come to their own conclusions.
While she was pregnant, Ewing said she had a hard time filling her children’s room with books reflecting that spirit, and where the characters happened to be Black but the story was not centered around race.
Instead, many of the books featuring Black characters were about heavy subjects, such as civil rights and how to overcome struggles.
“[Getting the right books] wasn’t something that was just a fleeting thought; it was something that we were really committed to,” Ewing said. “And we were able to find books, for sure, but it was harder than I thought. And so many of the titles were titles that I grew up with.”
And it seems other parents had the same thought. Ewing said people have reached out to her, describing experiences where their children were excited to pick up Stella Keeps the Sun Up at bookstores across the country.
In one instance, a woman in eastern Kentucky sent a photo of her daughter holding the book up next to her face, and Ewing said the child and the illustration on the cover looked very similar.
“The hairs on my arm are standing up right now because I can only imagine what that little girl felt like in that moment, seeing somebody who looks like her and the story and hopefully finding joy in that.”
Stella Keeps the Sun Up is Ewing’s first published book, but the author has been writing for most of her career as a journalist and communications professional.
She started off in TV news as a producer and assignment editor at CBS before moving to the entertainment industry as a producer on The Oprah Winfrey Show, then to politics as a member of the press team for former President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. Now, Ewing serves as vice president of communications for The Chicago Community Trust.
A second book is in the works, which Ewing said will feature Stella and her friend, Roger. That book is expected to be released in about one year.
Bianca Cseke is a digital producer at WBEZ. Follow her @biancacseke1.