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GOODNIGHT, SOON: The (Questionable) Ethics of a Bestselling Bedtime Book


Rabbit Warning

Thus begins The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleepcurrently the bestselling book on Amazon:

Rabbit #1

That’s right – the bestselling of all the books. It was also the lead story in Children’s Bookshelf from Publishers Weekly yesterday.

The subtitle for the book is A New Way of Getting Children to Sleep. That new way, apparently, is hypnosis. Here’s a quote:

Rabbit Sleep Now

This self-published book, written by Swedish behavioral psychologist and linguist Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin, is about a rabbit (named – oh, boy – Roger) who would like to fall asleep, but can’t. He goes to see his Uncle (are you really even wondering what the uncle is named??) Yawn for help.

The story uses “powerful psychological techniques” including “specially constructed sentences and choices of words” for “relaxation”. Another quote:

Rabbit Snail

It’s selling the promise of putting kids to sleep, although it does come with this “disclairner”:

Rabbit Disclairner

Harmless?! How about that whole warning at the beginning, implying if someone was operating a vehicle within earshot, they’d go careening off the nearest cliff?


Look, I could pull quotes and riff all day, but I wanted to at least give it a fair chance to do what it says it does.

So I read it to my kids last night.

It was the most excruciating reading experience I can recall.

Rabbit Relax

In the interest of complete honesty, I should say that I tried to read it to my kids, but couldn’t get past page 10. So I can’t quite attest to the sleep-enducing power of the book.

How anyone could trudge through the entire thing, I don’t know. Lots of kids have a hard time sleeping, and desperate parental times for for desperate parental measures – I get it – but if you read this to your kids, you’re only punishing yourself

And, more importantly, is it even ethical to do this? Reading what amounts to Hypnotism for Dummies to an unsuspecting child?

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Travis, you make excellent points about this book, but I really, really wish someone would read it to me. It sounds like it might work for a sleepless, working mother, lol.

  2. I second Angelique’s statement, maybe this book should be aimed at over-worked, multi-tasking parents who have to much to juggle. Just reading this text made me want to take a nap, or maybe that’s the food-coma from a heavy Indian lunch. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Travis. I was surprised to see it in PW.

  3. Sophie Blackall says

    This whole thing makes me want to go careening off a cliff.

  4. Excellent points here. I’m now worried some sort of ALA exploratory committee should be formed to decide if a warning label is warranted…Zzzzzzz

  5. Let me offer an alternative! The absolutely brilliant “The Boy Who Wouldn’t Go to Bed,” by Helen Cooper (1996 — when my son was 2) used to put my son to sleep so consistently, he stopped letting me read it at bedtime. *It* has gorgeous pictures and wonderful text. The little boy refuses to go to bed and drives out into the night with his little car and asks creatures and things to play with him. But everyone is TOO sleepy. Even the moon “closed her eyes and dosed off.” Even his car gets too tired and stops chugging. The book is totally brilliant and sends kids right off…. However, unlike the book you reviewed, it is wonderful literature and not simply a vehicle for hypnosis and psychobabble. Also magnificent illustrations.

  6. Travis, your post inspired me to grab The Boy Who Wouldn’t Go to Bed, share it with my co-worker — and go home and write a review. No book we ever read to our boys made them sleepier than this one. AND it’s beautiful! No boredom at all.

  7. I suffered through no sleep with a baby for months. Crying, screaming, doing everything I could until 3 or 4am and then waking up the next day feeling like a zombie. I was barely hanging on. I understand why this book is selling so many copies. I was DESPERATE at that point. I would do anything for some sleep.

    But a baby isn’t going to respond to this book and I doubt an older child will want to read it more than once, once they realize what’s up.

  8. To be clear, it wasn’t me who was crying and screaming. Although I wanted to. LOL

  9. I agree it’s less than ethical. Further though my kids are readers and any kid I had any hands-on experience with loved reading to, even when there were difficulties. Because it was an enjoyable experience. From making voices and sound effects (me and them, it’s best when interactive), to the human contact and great illustrations, I started early and consistently read to them. I “gave up” an hour and a half or so for a routine/ritual at bedtime, so kids went to bed willingly and learned to love to read at the same time. This blows ALL of that out of the water. How do you trust someone willing to coerce you in such a way? How do you learn healthy routines and what your body does when it takes this kind of treachery? And worst of all the joy of reading and the power of REAL communication- where does that actually leave this lifes’ blood activity? Not to mention the horrid craftsmanship all around.

  10. I found the book to be downright creepy. What put it over the edge for me wasn’t the poor writing or the poor illustrations or the poor storyline or the intentional hypnotic overtones but the fact that when the poor little rabbit finally wants to go to sleep the parent says he can’t and that he must visit at least one more person.

    Oh, and if your kids do manage to fall asleep while you’re reading this book, you’re supposed to finish reading it to them anyways. Because that’s how the hypnotic system works apparently.

  11. Awesome! Loved this