The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep
I have a special pile for bad children’s books. Only the worst ones make it into this special collection. Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin’s new book, “The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep: A New Way of Getting Children To Sleep” (Crown Books, ages 3-5) is bound for the bookshelf designated for only the worst titles. The audio, on the other hand, is noteworthy.
First opening the book, I was horrified by the long pages of text. A child who cares about rabbits is way too young for that many words per page. “It’ll definitely put a child to sleep,” I thought, "and it may put a parent to sleep as well. How could anyone wade through this amount of text?”
To read aloud Ehrlin’s book would be painful. He makes just about every mistake a newbie children’s book writer can. The condescending narrator tells the child audience that the story “will make you very sleepy” and, then in an awkward phrase, wonders “just when will be the best time for you to go to sleep.” A paragraph later, he commits the next children’s book writing no-no, christening the hero alliteratively, Roger Rabbit. Without warning, the author brings the listening child into the story, referred to that child as either “you” or “(name)” in bold. And that’s just the first page.
Throughout the book, the author throws in obvious trope characters who made me gag, from Sleepy Snail to Heavy-Eyed Owl to Roger Rabbit. Along the way, there are didactic suggestions to take “thoughts that are lingering in your head and put them in a box by the bed” so on waking “you will have the answers to your thoughts.” And rabbits and humans, Uncle Yawn reassures saccharinely, can fall asleep and “be happy, be kind, be loved, and feel they are good enough just as they are.” I was jarred into hyper wakefulness again and again while reading this book.
Then I listened to the audio (Listening Library, approximately 1 hour) read first by Fred Sanders and then by Kathleen McInerney. It didn’t take long before I recognized some of the lingo that had seemed so strange in the book as words that had once lulled me into a hypnotic relaxed state. The bolded words that seemed bizarre in the book, made perfect sense when emphasized in the soft, comforting voices of Sanders and McInerney. I also forgave the didacticism in their soothing tones. “Hmmm,” I thought, “now this is an audio that might do the trick for me during those mid-night wake ups.”
And then, I thought of my granddaughter, Catie. The last time she visited, she woke an hour after her parents had left for the night and came downstairs sobbing that she wanted them. Recently, I learned that she sometimes shifts and turns in bed, wide-awake, for an hour or more.
The next time Catie visits, I’ll put her to bed with brushing and books, but then I’ll add this audio. The bad writing won’t matter if the audio eases her into sleep.
Susie Wilde pictured below