I’ve been reading to my baby since he was a week old. They say it doesn’t really matter what you read to them at first. He’s over six months old now, and it definitely does matter. Anything that’s not a board book will be ripped to shreds in his tiny, freakishly-strong, relentless grasp. We’re particularly fond of reading to him at night, so bedtime books are big in our house. And, wow, are there some bad ones.
I’m a writer. I read like a writer. Unfortunately, many picture books are seemingly written by a committee of marketing interns managed by an editor who has never met a child. Okay, I’m being harsh. Really, the problem is that a lot of picture books are written for children. That’s well and good — kids need to read! — but they don’t learn to read for several years. Parents like me will read books like Goodnight Moon hundreds of times before our children will even utter the words “Goodnight mush.” And Goodnight Moon is one of the better bedtime books. Most of them devote several pages to proper hygiene.
So, we were given this book you’ve probably heard of called Go the F**k to Sleep. It’s a spoof bedtime picture book written for adults. It has bad words in it. But here’s the thing — it’s written for adults! The prose is totally less maddening than 90% of the bedtime books I’ve seen. Unfortunately — it’s written for adults! Even though my son is six months old and doesn’t really know the R-ratedness of what we’re saying to him, I just can’t read this book to him. I tried. It feels wrong.
On a quest for the perfect bedtime book, I took my baby to Barnes and Noble. I looked at as many bedtime books as I could find, and settled on It’s Time To Sleep My Love, written by Eric Metaxas and illustrated by Nancy Tillman. (I recognized Tillman’s work from On The Night You Were Born, which is an awesome book to read to babies, by the way.) When I got home with the book, I realized why I liked it so much — it’s an unsarcastic version of Go the F**k to Sleep!
Although I don’t think that the author has acknowledged it, it turns out that many people think Go the F**k to Sleep is a parody of It’s Time To Sleep My Love. There certainly are a lot of similarities. For instance, here’s a quote from It’s Time To Sleep My Love:
“It’s time to sleep, it’s time to sleep,” / the fishes croon in waters deep.
And from Go the F**k to Sleep:
The windows are dark in the town, child. / The whales huddle down in the deep. / I’ll read one very last book if you swear / You’ll go the fuck to sleep.
So, Go the F**k to Sleep is a little more verbose than It’s Time To Sleep My Love, but you get the idea. The artwork is similar between the two books as well, each featuring spreads of nature scenes interspersed with children in various stages of sleepiness.
Recently, I learned that the author of Go the F**k to Sleep released a G-rated version of the book that you can actually read to kids. That’s well and good, but here’s my problem with it: If Go the F**k to Sleep is a spoof of It’s Time To Sleep My Love, the humor being the inclusion of adult language, and then you remove the adult language — don’t you just end up with a ripoff of It’s Time To Sleep My Love? I know I’m oversimplifying this but, still, it bugs me.
The lesson here is probably that there is a burgeoning market for well-written books to read to preverbal children. That’s lucky for me because, prior to considering all of the above, I started writing my own bedtime book. It’s no It’s Time To Sleep My Love, but I enjoyed writing it. We’ll see where it goes.
In the least, it was great to get back to writing since the birth of my son. The fact that, in spite of all my crazy new responsibilities, I’m still making time to write has made me realize how important writing is to me. And that realization has made me write more. So here we are — back at it again! Wonderful.