NEW YORK — Playing dress up or running around the park, kids can be so darn cute. Until it’s 3 a.m. and they won’t go the (bleep) to sleep.
The F-bomb plea on the minds of every parent at one point or another is the title of a buzz magnet of a book parody written in kid-friendly rhyme. Beware, parents, it’s decidedly unworthy of a bedtime readaloud.
Not yet out, the 32-pager from a tiny Brooklyn publisher has hit No. 1 on Amazon.com and has sold more than 100,000 copies in pre-orders since it surfaced less than a month ago. After bootleg copies leaked, Akashic Books moved up publication from October to June 14, for Father’s Day.
Film rights have already been sold, though adaptation should be intriguing. A British publisher, Canongate, is putting out the book simultaneously with U.S. release, including the former commonwealth countries of Australia, India and South Africa. Publishers in China are interested. How does the F-bomb translate, anyway?
All this for what amounts to a lament put to picture book illustrations (by Ricardo Cortes) at a suggested retail price of $14.95. Here’s a sample: “All the kids in day care are in dreamland. The froggie has made its last leap. Hell no, you can’t go to the bathroom. You know where you can go? The (bleep) to sleep.”
Only the book uses the real word in full. A lot. On just about every page, in fact, with other bad words thrown in for good measure.
The spoof was written by novelist and poet Adam Mansbach, whose 3-year-old, Vivien, used to be a night owl but has turned the corner on the sleep thing.
Mansbach, who just completed two years as a visiting professor at Rutgers, is as stunned as anyone at the raw nerve he has touched with humor among parents and people who buy gifts for parents — and for petrified parents-in-waiting.
“Initially the audience was me and my wife,” he said. “It captures the frustration of being in a room with a kid and feeling like you may actually never leave that room again, that you may spend the rest of your life in that dark room, trying to get your kid to go to sleep.”
Mansbach had John Murphy at hello. The computer engineer in Lebanon, N.H., plans to give the book to a friend who’s about to become a dad.
“Yup, the buzz got me,” Murphy said. “I actually don’t have any kids myself, so maybe it’s cruel of me, but I hear him getting some rather gleeful warnings from people who already have kids about how he can kiss goodbye his sleep and free time. I thought a little levity might be appreciated.”
Mansbach admits that when it comes to bedtime, he’s not exactly on par with his partner, Victoria. “I probably only put my daughter to sleep 25 percent of the time. I should come clean about that,” he said.
But he still knows of what he writes. Like so many kids, Vivien’s brain “couldn’t spin down, so she would lie there and all this stuff she heard during the day or the week, or in the last six months, would sort of bubble up,” he said.
“There were those moments, when she’s not rolling around, sitting up,” Mansbach continued. “Her breathing got slow and I’d convince myself, this is it. Then I’d make that fatal mistake, trying to sneak out early. You know you shouldn’t, but you really want to get out of there. And she’d wake up.”
Is he a parenting manual person? What about sleep training? Crying it out? Modified crying it out?
Not for Vivien, Mansbach said. “We were certainly aware of that but we could never really bring ourselves to do it.” Turns out the sleep thing cleared when his toddler dropped her nap.
Brad Wilkening in Chicago is about to become a dad for the first time. Surrounded by people delivering horror stories, he ordered the book for a laugh. “It almost seems like there’s some gang initiation phase to parenthood,” he said. “I like things that are over-the-top funny.”
Vivien may be sleeping just fine, but Mansbach said he’s still not getting enough shut-eye. “At this point it’s this crazy book keeping me awake.”
Twisted kid-book parodies aren’t new. In 1969, there was a Harvard Lampoon send-up of “Lord of the Rings” called “Bored of the Rings.”
Since 2008, the Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd picture book classic “Goodnight Moon” has been treated to “Goodnight Bush,” as in George W., and “Goodnight Goon,” featuring a little werewolf “in the cold gray tomb with a black lagoon.”
On pre-order right now with Mansbach’s book is the July 1 release “Goodnight Keith Moon.” He was an F-bomb lovin’ drummer, kids. In a rock band called The Who.