Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Did They Just Say That in a Picture Book?

Most people probably have heard or seen by now the very unique titles splashing children's books over the past six months.  What am I referring to?


The first distinct profanity picture book (yes, geared toward children) hit bookstores nationwide with the title "Go the F**k to Sleep."  Surprising (and yet should we be?) many, it hit the NYT Bestseller list, peaking at #6.

And now, the use of this type of vulgar language seems to be a trend.  Other titles hitting bookshelves include:

1) "If You Give A Kid A Cookie, Will He Shut the F**k Up?"
2) S***t My Dad Says

First and foremost, let me clarify.  I'm not an idiot, I understand the humor in what started off as a joke on Twitter or Facebook, ended up being a bestseller, especially with the irony involved.  However, from a writer's standpoint, I have to state that by publishing these types of books, it goes against many rules we've learned at conferences. I can't begin to elaborate on the feedback I've received from many in the industry on how to strengthen my picture book stories.  I can tell you, not one comment was to add profanity into it.  More or less, everything came down to does it relate to children?  Will they find it funny? Entertaining? And most of all, will it be a book that kids will want to pick up and read over, and over, and over, and over again....

I feel these types of books hit only two distinct aspects:

1) Uniqueness.  Can't argue with that.
2) Targets parents.  No they aren't the kids, but who is ultimately buying the books for their children? Some may even purchase it just because of the hilarity behind it all.

Maybe it's geared more toward parents, and less for children after all.  The beautiful illustrations and humorous prose certainly elicits a giggle or two from even the most exhausted parents. And who can't use a laugh or two?  Who's to say parents can't enjoy a picture book geared toward them after a long hard day's work?

I can't help but think about how the FCC has eased its restrictions on profanity on TV and what constitutes a "bleep" today.  Back in the day, you wouldn't hear any swearing, where as now, some are blurted right out.  Is this a sign that swearing is becoming part of our daily language and now is seen as common?  If that's the case, I can't help but wonder, first TV, now children's books...what's next?

Overall, whether this trend continues or is a flash in the pan, writers (and readers) simply need to keep in mind one thing:  we write because we love it.  We do it to see our stories told and hopefully can live on for generation after generation.

H*ll yeah.


  1. I love this post. I have to believe books like the ones you mentioned are geared toward parents who need a good chuckle at the end of a long day. I can't imagine parents wanting their children to pick up the use of these words at such a young age. But what the f**c to I know?

    And I've noticed a big change in how much swearing is on TV today. Makes me wonder what it will be like in 10 years.

  2. oops... I can't even half-spell swear words... but you get the idea.

  3. haha good point, thanks Cherie! :)

  4. I have to admit I almost bought this book for myself. It is definitely meant for the sleep deprived parents.