The other day I received a book in the mail. I wasn’t expecting it. It was an advance reading copy (or ARC as we call it in the biz) of “Seriously, Just Go to Sleep” by Adam Mansbach, illustrated by Ricardo Cortes. I thought maybe it was sent out for me to review, but apparently not. I’m not entirely sure why I have it here, so in case I’m supposed to be reviewing it for someone, consider it done!
You may remember last year these guys came out with a “children’s” book called “Go the Fuck to Sleep”. You can read the whole thing as a PDF here.
You can see where the humour comes in. Sweet gentle poetry, paired with soothing artwork is juxtaposed with the growing frustration of a parent whose child just will not go to sleep.
A typical page: “The owls fly forth from the treetops, Through the air, they soar and they sweep. A hot crimson rage fills my heart love. For real, shut the fuck up and sleep.”
The book reached its height in popularity when Samuel L. Jackson recorded the audiobook version. It’s obviously not for kids, and in fact the library has it catalogued in the adult literature section. I’m constantly worried that some careless staff person is going to shelve it with the kid’s picture books.
This new version, takes out all the swears and leaves the artwork and the rest of the text in place. The idea was that children could read this version with their parents and get in on the joke. The only problem is that the whole book works on the increasing desperation exhibited by the parent, and this is diminished in the sanitized version. I’ve read it once with my daughter and there are much better books out there. Thanks for the free copy, though Akashic Books!
I can relate to the frustration shown in both versions. I know my daughter has a very specific routine before bedtime, and there are often many times when the initial ritual does not stick. There have been times when I’ve felt like yelling “Get the FUCK to sleep!” but for the most part this is how it goes down:
My trick and plan is to have every activity after supper point towards bed. My friends joke that I start this routine way too soon, like the minute I get in the door from work.
“Hey, Audrey, Daddy’s home. How was your day? You know, you can tell me about it as we get you into your PJs.” The time is 4 pm.
It’s not really that bad, but I believe that the more we talk about getting ready, the easier it is when the time comes, but what do I know? I’m no Dr. Spock, as these blog posts clearly show.
Once Audrey is in her PJs, and we’ve read two or three stories in the living room and brushed our teeth, we make the move to the bedroom when the final gambit plays out. The next steps are crucial. One must sing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” bedside. It’s important to do the actions, but they have to be the RIGHT actions, as some of our friends have found out. Oh, and that’s the other thing. If you happen to be over to our house at bedtime, don’t be surprised if a call goes out to go in and sing. No one is immune, and the same song may be sung multiple times. It’s also important to kneel, “but not TOO low”, apparently. Itsy Bitsy is followed by “Bah, Bah Black Sheep” and like a savvy entertainer who slips the hometown into a song lyric, you get bonus points if you sing “One for the master, one for the dame, and one for the little AUDREY who lives down the lane”. The trilogy is complete with a singing of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, a song which shares the EXACT SAME TUNE as Black Sheep. It took me until I reached adulthood before I became aware of this. Can any of the fanbase name ANOTHER song that shares this tune? (I know you can!) You’re sort of encouraged to do the actions for this one too, but they are not mandatory. This is good because I don’t really know the actions to Twinkle Twinkle, but Audrey seems okay with that. “Mommy knows” she’ll often say seriously to me. When I ask my wife about this, she says, “Twinkle Twinkle has actions?”
Also, you’d be well advised to get a glass of water at the ready, because you’ll invariably be asked for one at some point. Bitter experience has taught me that a full glass will result in a wet bed in the morning, so a thimble full works just as well.
This ends the formal portion of the evening’s exercises, but sometimes Audrey will get a glint in her eye and make a special request.
You heard that correctly. She’s actually asking for a retelling of “Goldilocks and the three little bears” but somewhere down the line she’s started to call it “Four Bears” and we can’t seem to shake it. Now we think it’s kind of cute and just leave it at that. Every time I tell the story, it’s a little bit different, because I’m not really sure of the real version. It’s a folk tale, right? So I’m guessing there are probably regional and temporal variations. Who knows? Maybe some Eastern European version actually has four bears. I was discussing this story with friends a while back, and I guess you’re supposed to start the story with the bears themselves, getting out of bed, rocking in their chairs, making their porridge, and finding out their porridge is too hot so they go out for a walk in the woods. Only then does Goldilocks enter the picture. Me? I tell it a little differently. I start with Goldilocks and stay with her the whole time. It’s more compelling. “What is this cottage? Who sleeps in these beds? What’s with all this porridge?” and so on. It’s sort of more “Blair Witchy” that way. You’d never expect she’s broken into a cottage owned by BEARS, now would you? Also, from a practical standpoint, it’s much quicker to tell if leave out the bears at the beginning. I haven’t gone so far as to add a fourth bowl, chair and bed to the story, but to honour my daughter’s version, I have included a fourth bear from time to time. But who is this fellow anyway? You’ve got the Momma, Papa and Baby bear. Is he a creepy uncle? Maybe a neighbour? I haven’t quite fleshed him/her out. Or is my daughter thinking outside the box? Do we all have a little bear in us? Is Goldilocks herself the fourth bear? Are the three bears really bears? This is getting into Spike Jonze territory, where he interpreted Sendak’s Wild Things to be different aspects of Max’s personality.
I don’t know. It’s too late for this kind of talk. Just go the fuck to sleep already, okay?