Cleaned-up vocabulary makes You Have to Fucking Eat (2014) palatable for a child audience—but it’s still a picture book for adults.
Just as Mansbach followed up on the success of Go the Fuck to Sleep (2011) with its tamer companion, Seriously, Just Go to Sleep (2012), this title is billed as “the children’s version” of its more colorfully titled counterpart. While the absence of f-bombs will make most adults more inclined to share it with their finicky progeny, the voice remains one of adult exasperation, not childish agency or transformation. The ethnically diverse children depicted in Brozman’s digital illustrations doggedly refuse all entreaties and pleas to eat—not one caves and tries something or decides to like it, à la Sam I Am’s antagonist in Seuss’ picky-eating classic, or otherwise takes the story’s reins. That’s all well and good, but it relegates the text to the domain of adult venting, which undermines its status as “the children’s version.” In a mildly clever call-back to the prior books about going to sleep, the closing lines admit failure in nourishing the fussy child and then say, “But on the bright side, maybe this is the night / You seriously just go to sleep.” Will this series be put to bed now? Or will other parenting travails provoke yet more cathartically crass titles and toned-down companions?
Seriously, please stop. (Picture book. 3-5)