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This Bedtime Book Holds Secret and Horrifying Powers. It’s Also Perfect

My war with ‘The Quiet Book’ is a cautionary tale about what happens when a great kids’ book is actually too cute.

Deborah Underwood / HMH Books

Sometimes we have to get rid of things we love, lest they define who we are forever. That isn’t too hard when those things are ratty sweaters, Chuck Taylor All-Stars with no arch support (I’m old) or flip-phones with embarrassing ringtones (I’m really old). But for my daughter, it’s a beloved children’s book that needs to be hidden away. For her (and my) own good. Because a certain cuddly, cute bedtime book for toddlers has actually become…a huge nightmare?

If you are a parent who is just starting to read to your child, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t buy The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood and Renata Liwska. But I am saying you may want to think about the consequences if you decide to introduce this atomic bomb of adorableness into your life. This book might be too cute for its own good, and more importantly, may threaten the sanity of you and your child.

Let’s get straight to the point. The Quiet Book is weaponized cuteness. The soft illustrations of various animals doing “quiet things” isn’t just good, it’s great. In fact, I’m going to go ahead and say this right now: the bears, bunnies, owls, birds and at least one iguana in The Quiet Book might be the cutest fucking animals I’ve ever seen — or ever will see — in any piece of children’s media ever. Please don’t tell me there is an animated show based on The Quiet Book animals, because if so, my daughter, my wife and myself will not stop oohing and awing. These animals demand to be cuddled in your mind’s eye, but more relevantly to my experience, they demand to be reread.

In my house, this is where The Quiet Book went from being cute, to scary cute. If you have a toddler, then you know kids demanding to have books reread to them with an assertive “again” is common. It’s also common with literally any book right before bedtime. The fact that toddlers will use “delaying tactics” to avoid bedtime is not something that is triggered by any one bedtime book, and yet, with The Quiet Book, my not-quite-two-year-old took the demands for a rereading the beloved tome to a new level of aggression. The Quiet Book created a need in my daughter to be consumed by nothing but The Quiet Book. The sweet, sing-song utterance of “again,” soon become a louder, firmer “AGAIN,” and then, straight-up, a demon-voice from The Exorcist, “AGAIN.”

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In our house, The Quiet Book is an addiction; a horrifyingly cute crack-cocaine which can open up a marathon rereading session that can last hours. There are a lot of obvious problems with sitting and reading one book over and over again with your toddler; the most obvious being that your kid isn’t actually going to sleep. But, the most maddening thing of all is that The Quiet Book doesn’t really have a story, and in some cases, doesn’t really have sentences that make any sense at all.

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For those unfamiliar, The Quiet Book has phrases like this on each page: “Jelly side down quiet,” or “Making a wish quiet.” The illustrations then depict an outrageously cute animal embodying that type of “quiet.” The thing is, all of these sentences are lacking a colon or a comma or something to let you know that this is a type of quiet, and not just a weird non-sentence. This kind of thing isn’t a problem per se, and it’s actually part of the hypotonic effectiveness of the book.

In fact, the nonsensical nature of the sentences, combined with the cuddliness of the animals is perhaps the most perfect combination I’ve ever seen in a child’s bedtime book. The repetition of the different kinds of quiet combined with the soft, memorable illustrations amounts to a platonic standard that every single bedtime book should try to achieve. In short, The Quiet Book is perfect.

Which is why it’s a problem. My daughter is ridiculously perceptive and has excellent taste. She knows The Quiet Book is the pinnacle in children’s bedtime literature. She knows that it’s utter perfection and adorableness is designed to be coveted forever. Which is why this perfect book drives her mad. It’s flawless. This is why it can never end for her. This is why it must be reread. Is this the kid’s book version of The King In Yellow, destined to drive you mad if you reread it too many times? I’ve yet to find anything else in the storybook world that comes close. Even the horrors of Goodnight Moon are more explicable.

My wife and I have hidden The Quiet Book for the past month, horrified by its powers. In fact, I’m not exactly sure where the book is stashed away in our house. Do you remember the last scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, where we see the deadly object packed in a box and then shoved in a warehouse of nondescript boxes? That’s where The Quiet Book should be hidden. It is a talisman of beauty and childhood wonder, too perfect for human eyes to behold. If you or your children already own The Quiet Book, it’s probably too late for you. Perhaps great bedtime books can’t be perfect. Perhaps the best ones require some flaw that will make your toddler lose interest.

When you find that flaw in The Quiet Book, please tell me. Until then, in my house, it will remain buried, hidden away so it’s terrible power cannot control us. It may be called The Quiet Book, but even now I can hear the cute pitter-patter of adorable furry feet, beating against the walls. Let us out. Just one more time. Open us up. Read us just one more time. JUST. ONE. MORE. TIME.