The sequel to “Go the F*ck to Sleep,” the bestselling, expletive-filled picture book for adults by Adam Mansbach is here. Naturally, it’s called, “You Have to F*cking Eat,” because as every parent knows, the struggle to get your kids to eat properly starts just as soon as you have finally Ferberized them (or however you’re supposed to get your kids to go to sleep these days).
The potty-mouthed sequel hit brick-and-mortar and virtual store shelves last week. However, based on the controversy the first book stirred up, it’s safe to assume that not everybody was eagerly awaiting it. Moreover, now that it is here, some have already let it be known that the novelty has worn off.
This new book, like the seminal work, is written in rhyme and illustrated (this time by Owen Brozman) with colorful scenes of children and animals. It depicts various familiar struggles parents have in getting their children to eat healthfully and on schedule, and in some cases to eat at all.
The book’s scenes of children refusing to eat at mealtimes but wanting a midnight snack, asking for a favorite food and then refusing to even take a bite of it, or coming home from school without having consumed a thing in their lunchbox are common to family life in America, if not in countries like France, where apparently children have sophisticated palates and are disciplined eaters.
“It took me three to four years to wrap my head around a sequel,” Mansbach, 38, tells The Times of Israel in a phone interview from his home in Berkeley, California.
“I didn’t want to be derivative. The subject of eating was obvious, but I needed to experience it,” he says, noting that his own young daughter is now four and a half years older than when he wrote the first book and has progressed to a new developmental stage.
As with “Go the F*ck to Sleep,” the idea was to intersperse what the author refers to as “an honest parental monologue” with a “soothing, saccharine, boring” traditional children’s picture book format.
“The idea is to play one off the other, to flip and remix concepts,” he explains. Mansbach believes readers will perceive the more pronounced arc of this new book, as the subject lends itself to a somewhat broader approach to storytelling.
“Sleep takes place in one location. You’re trapped in the bedroom. When it comes to eating and food, you can have scenes that take place in more places,” he says.
As with “Go the F*ck to Sleep,” this second book is not meant to be read to or by children. Rather, it aims to be a way for parents to let off a little steam about the challenges of childrearing, and to take comfort in the fact that they are not alone with their parenting anxieties.
“There is real anxiety. Parents are really beating themselves up about this,” Mansbach says about getting children to eat properly.
“And even if a kid is a good eater, parents are still worried about what they are feeding them. There is always new and contradictory information about what is healthy and not, and there is the issue of body image, especially when raising girls,” he adds.
The author, who grew up in Boston in a strongly secular Jewish family, knows first-hand how early food experiences can stay with a person.
‘And even if a kid is a good eater, parents are still worried about what they are feeding them’
“My main memory is of my grandparents throwing cocktail parties and my helping them make the hors d’oeuvres,” he says.
Mansbach also recalls his grandfather’s yearly ritual of forcing himself to eat gefilte fish.
“It was his admission of Judaism. I would sit there and watch him eat this terrible stuff out of a Manischewitz jar. He made a whole production of it. It was hilarious,” he says.
“Go the F*ck to Sleep” was translated into 40 languages, including Hebrew, but there is no news yet on a publication date for an Israeli edition of “You Have to F*cking Eat,” let alone whether it will swap out pancakes and syrup for the more local pita and hummus.
In the meantime, readers can either pick up a copy in English or enjoy one of the audio versions. In the US, the faux children’s book is read aloud by “Breaking Bad” actor Bryan Cranston, and in the UK by Stephen Fry.
It must be noted, however, that neither version achieves the virtuosity of Samuel L. Jackson’s rendition of “Go the F*ck to Sleep.” When the “Pulp Fiction” and “Snakes on a Plane” actor tells a kid to go to do something, they had better the hell listen.