In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Cursing at your children

Dear Aunt Debbie,

I raised the issue of Bow-Wow's gender with Eleanor this week, and told her that you had found a picture of the dog Bow-Wow is based on, who is female.  "So," I said, "I think we can choose.  Should we start calling Bow-Wow 'she'?  Do you think Bow-Wow is a girl?"  Eleanor's face lit up (because of the option to choose?  Because she thinks girls are cool?).  "Yes!  Bow-Wow is a girl!"  So that's the conscious choice we're making around here.

But this is not what my friends want me to be blogging about.  No, in the last two weeks, I have been emailed by at least eight different people, all encouraging me to blog about a children's book aimed at adults, a book which has not even been released yet (look for it in June): Adam Mansbach's Go the Fuck to Sleep.

This is clearly what the hip, tired young parents of America want: a children's book aimed at adults, blurbed on the front cover by Jonathan Lethem, with really beautiful illustrations by Ricardo Cortes and an Onion/Daily Show-like satirical sensibility.

It's actually pretty funny.  Mansbach captures the cadence of goodnight books like Time for Bed, beginning with this simple first page, accompanied by an illustration of a sleeping child curled next to three sleeping cats:

The cats nestle close to their kittens now.
The lambs have laid down with the sheep.
You’re cozy and warm in your bed, my dear.
Please go the fuck to sleep.

As the book continues, the narrator gets a little more frustrated:

The wind whispers soft through the grass, hon.
The field mice, they make not a peep.
It’s been thirty-eight minutes already.
Jesus Christ, what the fuck? Go to sleep.

The illustrations remain gorgeous and nature-filled, but the little children in them become wider and wider awake (on one page, a kid is skydiving down onto a dock).  Here, a laughing toddler leans over the back of a sleeping lion, other lions passed out around them:

The cubs and the lions are snoring,
Wrapped in a big snuggly heap.
How is it you can do all this other great shit
But you can’t lie the fuck down and sleep?

We've all been there.  Depending on the hour of the night and your current level of exhaustion, this book may move you to tears of laughter.  Or just tears.

I wonder how it'll sell?

Love, Annie


  1. No matter what, you can't beat the "F" word to liven things up, ESPECIALLY children's books!

  2. Another book I love (with a similar sense of humor) is called "It's a Book", by Lane Smith. Check it out.