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Wake me up when it’s all over

sleep-paralysis-1170x668I confess to feeling nonplussed when the publicist wrote to see if “Horn [ed note: AARGH] will review The Rabbit Who Wants to Go to Sleep,” the self-published bestseller that Random House picked up for a rumored seven-figure advance. I mean, yes, the Horn BOOK will review it in the Spring 2016 Horn Book Guide because that publication reviews non selectively, but, really, why are you asking me this? Is somebody making you do it? I felt one step away from a drunk Reese Witherspoon bellowing at a cop who didn’t know who she was.

But, okay, Rando, here’s what Horn thinks. The Rabbit Who Wants to Go to Sleep is a book designed to help parents get their kids to go to sleep. It has sold so many copies (already, I mean, but clearly RH thinks there are even more suckers out there) because it probably works as advertised. The text is long–really, really long– and droning and uneventful, and it will bore the brats right into dreamland. Authorial directives are everywhere, telling parents where to whisper, where to provide emphasis, where to yawn: “The name of the rabbit, Roger [ed note: fuck you], can be read as ‘Raaah-gerr’ with two yawns.” The combination of boredom plus suggestion will induce a hypnotic state in both parent and child and cause Chandler to walk around the apartment with a towel round his head like a girl make them very, very sleeeepy. (Despite what the Amazon reviews will tell you, this is not “magic.” Now, I would have thought that the kind of parent  susceptible to The Rabbit Who Wants to Go to Sleep might have been horrified at the prospect of hypnotizing their offspring because that is how demons get in, but anything for a good night’s sleep, I suppose.) Mission accomplished.

If the seven-figure-advance rumor is true, I’d love for someone to do the math for me. Can this book (or books; the author and publisher are threatening a series) earn that much money back? Won’t parents figure out that Goodnight Moon–cheaper, prettier, and a billion times classier–does the same thing?


Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Katie Bircher Katie Bircher says:

    The Rabbit… might put me to sleep but then this image will give me NIGHTMARES.

  2. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:


  3. I would comment on this trend to give seven figure advances (or lie about it) to build a buzz while giving regular authors a pittance and no marketing (imagine how many bestsellers if they took that money and spread it around to those already midlist or lower).

    But you said to be respectful in our comments. Hence, I demur 🙂

  4. Whatever happened to the ‘what the fox says’ book and song?

  5. Paige Ysteboe says:

    I must not be allowed to read your column when I’m drinking wine, because I almost spit it our on the computer. Too funny!

  6. Thom Barthelmess says:

    I’ll go on record as saying that I think What Does the Fox Say is a perfectly serviceable picture book. They used an established Norwegian illustrator whose stylized images, though maybe a little severe, work well with the silly text. The art direction is terrific. As picture-books-from-song-lyrics go, it’s not a bad example at all. Whether or not it took a place on someone’s list, pushing another author off, is a different question. But it’s nowhere near as egregious as The Rabbit Whose Publicist Doesn’t Know Horn.

  7. Sorry to report that my musician friend found the Fox video and posted it to FB. That thread was a string of ridicule and WTFs from artists and musicians not in publishing. Not one of them knew about the book until I told them. Considering their song reviews I don’t think they cared if there was a book. These folks are the buying public (with kids) who know nothing about reviews, or Horn Book, and such. I haven’t heard much from these book buyer friends (they love books) about the rabbit book, either.

  8. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    Anyone else willing to speak to TIME OF WONDER as a candidate in the snooze sweepstakes?

  9. Elissa Gershowitz Elissa Gershowitz says:

    Not for nothing, but here’s the Horn Book Guide’s review of the WDTFS picture book. And thanks so much for putting that song in my head — I thought it was gone FOREVER!! And I thought we were friends. To you all, I say: “Op-op-oppa op / Oppa Gangnam Style.”

    Ylvis, and Løchstøer, Christian “What Does the Fox Say”
    24 pp. Simon 2013. ISBN 978-1-4814-2223-5 Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-2224-6
    (5) K-3 Illustrated by Svein Nyhus. Here’s a picture book representation of Norwegian comedic music duo Ylvis’s titular YouTube hit. The text consists entirely of the nonsensical lyrics; the incessant refrains of varied gibberish “fox sounds” make for labored recitation at times (“Joff-tchoff-tchoffo-tchoffo-tchoff!”), but some kids may have fun giving it a go. Nyhus’s jarringly stylized digital illustrations, vaguely recalling Native American totem pole figures, undermine the silliness.
    Subjects: Picture Books; Animal sounds; Animals–Foxes; Songs; Music–Pop music

  10. Nick Bruel says:

    If the sole purpose and selling point of a book is just to put a child to sleep, then why go through the effort and expense? For my daughter, I just read her the owner’s manual for my dishwasher. Knocks her right out every time.

  11. christine tripp says:

    Roger, YES!!! I couldn’t believe when RH tweeted the release date nor when I read about the buy in PW. OMG! Please tell me there are NOT enough insane parents to justify a million buck advance for English rights and that they have apparently signed the phycologist for 2 other books!
    You forgot to mention the.. um, “Illustration”. I was sure that at least RH would change that but no. Guess it doesn’t matter, it’s all text really, so who’s looking at the pics.
    I don’t always agree with you Roger, but you made my day with this one!:)

  12. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    Psychologist, my Aunt Fanny.

  13. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    Nick, just make sure you are emphasizing the words properly, saying dishhhhhes in a hushed tone and waaaatterr like you’re auditioning for The Miracle Worker.

  14. Christine TB– YES. Exactly what I thought.

    Seeing this book and hearing about the advance is the only time I’ve ever felt close to being that fist-shaking, forehead-vein-throbbing, red-faced caricature that rants about self publishing being the end of “real literature”.

  15. Joey Jo-Jo Shabadoo says:

    Roger Sutton: still the biggest jerk in the world of children’s literature.

  16. Lolly Robinson Lolly Robinson says:

    It has 218 1-star reviews on Amazon. Reading them provides a pleasant diversion (most are well written by parents and include priceless quotes from their NOT-sleepy kids). Beware of reading while drinking *spit-takes*

  17. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    Joey, I think Imma steal that for my gravestone. NOW AND FOREVER.

  18. Mary, exactly and made me furious tp rehash the advice I constantly hear at SCBWI conferences from Editors and Art Directors about submitting “quality” work…why bother, sub drivel titled “The skunk that wanted to get all A’s in school” and quickly slap together some bad Illustration, then click “send”:(

    Lolly thanks! I took evil pleasure in reading those hundreds of bad reviews and this comment from a parent gave me yet another reason to loath this book.

    >At least books with interesting stories help her calm down, pay attention, and love reading.<

    "Love reading"!!!
    What damage could exposure to such a boring story, non character characters and pathetic grammatical errors (RH didn't even edit it let alone change the art???) do to a child's enjoyment of reading. While I symathise with tired parents, surely bed time stories were not so much meant to get the child to conk out, as they were to bring parent and child close together, have a quiet hug and a giggle. That's the environment that produces a love of books.

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