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What’s all the fuss about ‘that sleepy rabbit book’?

August 28, 2015

A self-published picture book which claims to lull children to sleep in minutes has become an international sales sensation.

Rabbit who wants to
“Author Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin is a Swedish behavioural psychologist. He told The Independent (UK) that the language patterns and complementary images in The Rabbit that wants to fall asleep make it the “verbal equivalent of rocking a baby to sleep”.

The book tells the story of Roger the Rabbit who is tired but can’t go to sleep, so seeks help from Sleepy Snail, Heavy-Eyed Owl and Uncle Yawn (who sprinkles a sleeping powder over Roger).

Forssen Ehrlin advises parents to read his story slowly and methodically and to yawn throughout the narrative, as psychological reinforcement. Various words in the text are shown in bold (to be emphasised) and italics (to be read in slow and calming voice). For example:

Relax your feet [name]. Roger and you do as Heavy-Eyed Owl tells you and now you relax your feet.”

It’s recommended that the child uses up excess energy before attempting to sleep and lies down and listens, rather than looking at the pictures.

The book has a slightly alarming warning inside that it should never be read out loud close to someone driving a vehicle!

The inspiration behind it? Forssen Ehrlin told The Telegraph (UK) that:

“I had written books before about leadership and personal development using these techniques, but I got the idea for a children’s book while I was driving on a long journey with my mother and she fell asleep …When we stopped I wrote it all down on a napkin but it took another three and a half years to come up with the perfect story so that all the techniques were used in the correct order.”

So does it work? And if it does, is it a good thing?

Parents who’ve tried the book have given it a mixed response. Karen Loeschner, who has a two year old, told npr.org she felt the book was actually too long for her child’s attention span and several parents reviewing the book on Amazon have given similar feedback.

Others, including reviewers on Amazon and Travis Jonker – a school librarian and reviewer for School Library Journal – are concerned about the ethics of using the book with their children, feeling they are essentially ‘hypnotising’ them.

But there are also enthusiastic endorsements along the lines of “I dubiously bought this book but can honestly say that we are on night 5 and it has worked every night after struggling for years with our 7 year old!”

Rabbit who wants new imageAnd certainly plenty of parents are willing to give it a go. Originally published on the Amazon Create Space platform, which is aimed at new writers selling small quantities of their book, The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep has achieved Number One for print sales at Amazon in the U.S., U.K. and Canada. In the one week ending August 23 Nielsen Bookscan recorded sales of 29,000 print copies in the US (and those figures don’t include sales through Amazon). The book is now available in seven languages.

Forssen Ehrlin has now signed with a literary agent. On 2nd September, The Random House U.S. and Penguin Random House U.K. children’s divisions of Penguin Random House announced that they had jointly acquired the book and they will publish a new print edition in Australia and other countries on 2nd October.

Forssen Ehrlin is reported to be working on a book on toilet training next.

(This story was updated on 3rd Sept to include news of the sale to Penguin Random House.)

Click here to learn more or purchase a copy of The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep!

Need a new story? Try Forssen Ehrlin’s new story The Little Elephant Who Wants To Fall Asleep!


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