That this title, originally self-published, became an international bestseller says a lot more about the desperation of parents of sleepless children than it does about the quality of the book.
It opens with a lengthy note to adults that waggishly warns them of its soporific effects and then provides detailed instructions about how to read it. The story that follows is stupendously boring, but that’s clearly intentional. Young Roger the Rabbit really wants to fall asleep, but he can’t—he doesn’t seem to know how. So Mommy Rabbit dispatches him, along with “you,” to see Uncle Yawn. Along the way, “you” and he meet Sleepy Snail and Heavy-Eyed Owl, both of whom impart somnolence tricks. They are so effective that both “you” and Roger are practically asleep even before reaching Uncle Yawn, but somehow the two press on, are sprinkled with “powerful, magical, and invisible sleeping powder,” and then drag themselves back home and conk out. Amateurish illustrations on verso (so negligible that the opening note suggests not showing them) oppose astonishingly text-heavy pages on recto. Key phrases in the text are printed in italic or boldface type, the latter calculated to deliver not-so-subtle subliminal suggestions to “fall asleep now.” Practitioners of yoga will recognize Heavy-Eyed Owl’s standard relaxation techniques.
If the book works, it’s because children will be bored to sleep, but it’s a lot more likely that exhausted adults will succumb before their little ones do. (Picture book. 3-6)