Noni Hazlehurst is the latest in a string of high profile people to be recorded reading a mock children’s book called ‘Go The Fuck To Sleep’ in a clever marketing stunt.
The 57-year-old former Australian play School presenter, is the latest addition to an expanding internet meme that also includes readings by German arthouse film director Werner Herzog and American actor Samuel L. Jackson.
The video starts with the gentle plucking of an acoustic guitar over a black screen, then fades in to reveal Hazlehurst, who fronted Play School for 23 years, kneeling in front of a fireplace holding the picture book by American novelist Adam Mansbach and illustrator Ricardo Cortes.
‘‘Hello,’’ she starts. ‘‘The story today is about a little baby who doesn’t want to go to sleep. And the baby is making Mummy and Daddy very tired. Do you know a baby like that?’’
She does a mini laugh, and then says: ‘‘Here’s the story.’’
But Go The Fuck To Sleep isn’t the typical Play School fare; it’s the strictly-for-parents mock book. The video a savvy bit of marketing by its local publisher, Text.
In Australia, Text Publishing has printed 40,000 copies of Go The Fuck To Sleep, which is considered a large first run for the country. There are reports that the book has been ‘‘flying out the door’’ since going on sale last Friday.
In the U.S. it is already a massive success, with about half a million copies in print and about half of those already sold.
Hazlehurst said she was sent a copy of the book by publisher Michael Heyward, and she immediately called him to say she loved it and wanted to record a reading of it. About a week ago, she took her spot in Heyward’s living room and delivered her reading to camera.
‘‘I totally related to it,’’ she said. ‘‘My first child didn’t sleep until he was two, and the first time he did sleep through I thought he’d died.’’
The book, and her reading of it, is a bit of fun, she says, ‘‘but there’s a serious underlying issue. People need to understand when they’re talking about how nice it would be to have a baby that it’s a huge undertaking.’’
Hazlehurst says she thinks she probably should have sought help when she had kids, but didn’t.
‘‘I thought because of Play School that I should be able to cope, because I was able to cope with so many other things.’’
Go The Fuck To Sleep topped Amazon’s bestseller list on the strength of pre-orders alone, ahead of its US release in June.
Even before that it was already a viral hit on the strength of leaked PDFs of its pages before its release. It’s a surprising result for something that started life as an off-the-cuff joke.
In a posting on his Facebook page, Mansbach vented his frustration at not being able to get his young daughter to sleep at bedtime, and to thereby give him and his wife a little grown-up time.
‘‘Look out for my forthcoming book, Go The F— To Sleep,’’ the novelist and teacher of creative writing at Rutgers University in New York posted one desperate night a little more than 12 months ago.
‘‘It was a joke, of course, because I certainly had no intention of actually writing it,’’ Mansbach has said.
But the number of ‘‘likes’’ he got prompted him to wonder if he hadn’t stumbled upon something. By July, he’d written the series of four-line rhymes that formed the book, and had enlisted Cortes to illustrate it.
A typical quartet goes like this:
‘‘The windows are dark in the town, child/The whales are huddled down in the deep/I’ll read one very last book if you swear/You’ll go the f… to sleep.’’
Mansbach has confessed he’s bemused by the sudden and unexpected success.
‘‘I hope I can be classy enough not to cash in on this just because the opportunity is there,’’ he told The Guardian.
‘‘But a lot of the suggestions are pretty funny. Somebody said that my next book should be called Eat Your F…ing Vegetables.’’
As for Hazlehurst, she has no fears that she’s tarnished the Play School brand.
‘‘Many of the kids I entertained are parents themselves now, and I think it’s pointless saying, ‘Make sure your child has a lovely environment to sleep in.’ I think we have to speak in a language people understand.’’
Listen to Samuel L. Jackson's narration here: