Parents! Halfway through reading your child’s bedtime story, do you ever find yourself thinking the following:
“Jeez, it’s hardly War and Peace. I could do this myself. Bet they make loads writing this crap.”
Then you read a little more, and, because you’re tired and you’re getting closer to the end, you start to mellow:
“Actually, that was possibly a bit unfair of me. It’s probably quite hard to write stuff like this, in ways I don’t yet understand. Otherwise I’d have written some cheery bedtime tomes myself. So yes, Julia Donaldson, I am sorry to have slighted you. You are the Tolstoy of the Tots and I salute you.”
Then, having ensured your little pumpkin is out for the count, you saunter off downstairs to wine, Holby City and scraping mashed potato out of the carpet.
Well, listen. This is what I think. You were right with your first instinct. It probably is dead easy to write this shit. The reason why you and I haven’t done it yet? Pride, man. You and I have got too much pride.
I was thinking all of this last night when I found myself reading what I’m sure must have been the inspiration for that all-time parenting classic Go the fuck to sleep. I Love You, Sleepyhead bears nearly all the hallmarks: cutesy illustrations of snuggly animals, plus twee little rhymes that make you want to vomit.* It has everything, really, apart from the swearing. Which is a shame, really, since swearing’s the thing that can really make a bedtime story sing.
I wish I’d written Go the fuck to sleep. Still, it set me thinking. Perhaps I’m not too proud to write a children’s book as long as it’s got an edge. Thus, being a creative type, I’ve thrown some ideas around and seen what I can come up with. Which of these do you think will “fly”?:
- Rainbow Fish: The Revenge. Swishing through the ocean, happy as a splash, it suddenly crosses Rainbow Fish’s tiny, fishy mind that actually, it was a bit mean of all his mates to each take one of his special sparkly scales for their own use, leaving him with only one remaining. The fuckers! Thereafter it all becomes like an underwater version of Carrie and everyone’s doomed.
- Charlie and Lola: The philosophical headfuck version. In which Soren Lorensen contends that it’s not actually possible for him to be the imaginary friend of Lola, who is already a fictional character. This imaginary doubling does in fact send him back through the looking-glass separating the fictional and the real, meaning that Lorensen is in fact a genuine living person. This is one of those things that sounds mad and totally plausible at one and the same time, meaning that everyone’s brain explodes.
- That’s not my feminist. A version of the popular “That’s not my …” series, adapted to show youngsters that feminists come in all shapes and sizes. Featured feminists are rejected because “her legs are too hairy”, “her class is too middle” and “her position on burlesque dancing is just too unsatisfactory”. Because these books nearly always end with something soft and fluffy (e.g. the monkey’s tummy, the pirate’s beard), the last page features “my feminist” whose “minge is so soft and fluffy”. Throughout the book it is made clear that “my” feminist does not denote ownership, and that a feminist “not being yours” is not the same as said feminist not being a genuine feminist. This clears it all up once and for all (I was considering a different version of the series, based on marital infidelity – e.g. “That’s not my baby, my sperm count’s too low” – but that’s maybe one to keep up my sleeve for later).
This is as far as I’ve got right now. But actually, it’s quite far already, because how long do these books take to write? Five minutes? I mean, I’ve written a whole sodding thesis. I could do this with my eyes shut. Tomorrow.
In the meantime, what are your suggestions? What are you going to write? I know you won’t put anything in the comments box – just to make me feel like I’m the only one who does this – but still, have a ponder. Then write it. Bedtime won’t ever be the same again.
* For instance, Snug with their mummy, the rabbits are all / Tumbled together in one furry ball. Meanwhile, Small panda sleeps as the stars peek-a-boo, / Held by his mother, all the night through. Not having studied zoology, I don’t know much about cute animal bedtime rituals. Still, I have to say, it all sounds a bit suspect to me.
PS For the record, I think Julia Donaldson’s ace. Better than Tolstoy, in fact. “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” (Anna Karenina). Well, that’s just bollocks, for starters.