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Adam Mansbach

What I’ve learned from writing two foul-mouthed children’s books.


Owen Brozman/Courtesy of Akashic Books

In the three and a half years since he released his book for grown-ups, Go the F**k to Sleep, Berkeley author and filmmaker Adam Mansbach has heard hundreds of topics suggested for a sequel to the New York Times best-seller. But it wasn’t until earlier this year that he finally decided to write You Have to F**king Eat, which features profane and singsongy verses for weary parents.

I wrote Go the F**k to Sleep one after-noon in 2010 without expectations. My daughter, Vivien, was two and a half, and I wrote it to see if I could pull off flipping the conventional children’s bedtime book, and splicing that with the authentic interior monologue of a parent in that situation. I wanted to give voice to these frustrations.

By Matthew L. Kaplan

I didn’t even initially think about publishing it. I just read it to friends as a joke. People really dug it, and I figured there was a wider audience for it.

The process of writing You Have to F**king Eat was very similar to writing the first book. There had been a lot of appetite for a sequel, and people were suggesting things—any frustration you can name, including Put on Your F**king Shoes. When I did figure out the concept, I wrote it very quickly.

My daughter is, all things considered, a pretty good eater. But like most kids, she’s not consistent about it. On one hand, she’s adventurous, eating oysters on the half shell when she was two. But day to day, she might change her mind about what she likes and what she doesn’t. It’s very perplexing.

I don’t usually write with an audience in mind, even after Go the F**k to Sleep, because while it could seem the audience for that book would be parents, it turns out it was much wider than that. It turned out to be for anyone who’s ever interacted with a kid before. The audience is really anybody with a sense of humor.

I’m not ready to think about a third book. The books come out of life experiences, so it seems like a natural progression that they evolve with my daughter. Ask me again when she’s 10.

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