At some point my mother and I were reading In the Night Kitchen to my daughter — my mother turned to me and said “Oh no, is this going to end up on your perverted children’s books blog?” (I hadn’t known I was writing about perverted children’s books!) But, she was right, it did. Part of the experience of reading children’s books (as reading anything) depends on the reader and his or her perspective. So while, as mentioned, I don’t understand how someone doesn’t find baking children a little weird (and nudity fine), some people have the opposite reaction. Some people don’t find either a problem (seriously people?). Turning to a different book by Maurice Sendak, I had never thought of the bear in Where the Wild Things Are as suicidal until hearing Christopher Walken read the story. And my mom thought I was dark!
Monthly Archives: March 2012
Having a child brings so much joy into one’s life. It also brings a lot of music you had forgotten about, hadn’t known about, or had hoped to forget about. I don’t want to mention a bunch of lyrics that will get in your head, because I know how hard they are to get out once they are in (I may need a surgical procedure). Two words: Sesame Street. Certain books’ rhymes and rhythms similarly get into one’s head. Eric Seltzer’s “4 Pups and a Worm” is written like an advertisement, a catchy one. I find myself thinking “When you cannot tie your tie — no matter how you try. . . when your chopper will not fly— and you feel you want to cry. . . [ . . .] call 4 pups and a worm. They tie. They fly.” while I am cleaning, trying to prepare class, talking to friends, and other activities. When I have finally had enough distance from the reading experience that my brain can be completely occupied by other things, my daughter makes me read it to her again, which I enjoy, I just fear the aftermath.
Rhymes sometimes result in pictures or sayings that I find more confusing (and occasionally disturbing) than fun. Why does Luke Luck have a strange moustache? What is up with moustaches in children’s books more generally? Why does Luke Luck like taking licks in the lake duck likes? What relationship do Luke Luck and the duck have? Why are their eyes closed? Is Luke Luck lucky? What do they do when they aren’t taking licks? Or is that all they do? Does this lake in particular have some special qualities besides the regular hydrating ones? Please stare at this picture for five minutes and let me know if you have any answers.
Dr. Seuss is one of the best-known authors of children’s books; his works are silly, fun, and weird. The Cat in the Hat is fantastic. One of my sisters claims that Fox in Socks was one of her favorites as a child. I fear it might be my daughter’s as well. In Fox in Socks a fox (in socks) tortures Mr. Knox with wordplay. The problem with a book based on torturing wordplay that one READS ALOUD is your child is basically forcing you to torture yourself. There are different ways of dealing with this. I try to read as quickly as possible, both because I tend to mess up if I don’t and also because it speeds up the torture process. My husband reads as slowly as possible, in an unusually (for him) monotonous tone, hoping perhaps that our daughter will give up and let him stop. Either way, I inwardly cheer when Mr. Knox (spoiler alert) shoves the aggressive Fox in Socks into a bottle and he becomes “a tweetle beetle noodle poodle bottled paddled muddled duddled fuddled wuddled fox in sox” and the book ends. Yes, that was a direct quote. Try saying it ten times fast after four hours of sleep.
Some children books contain lessons for kids (there is a long tradition of didactic children’s books). Sometimes children books seem to contain lessons for parents (particularly ones about going to bed or going on the potty, they are often trying to instruct —umm subtly— the adult about proper training techniques). Sometimes the books are even letting the parent work out issues or vent (an extreme version would be the much circulated and discussed “Go the Fuck to Sleep”). This all makes sense to me. My daughter has two books that as much as lessons for the parents seem to be lessons (or opportunities to vent) for the parents… and their friends. Especially their friends without kids. In Lena Anderson’s Hedgehog’s Secret people keep showing up to hang out with Hedgehog and she is too busy cleaning and preparing things for a celebration of her new baby. Elephant leaves in huff. Teddy bear is sad. My daughter loves it because of the calming rhymes and the nice assortment of animals. Hedgehog wants to keep her baby a surprise, maybe if she told her friends they would not be upset, but also — why don’t her friends help her clean up or prepare? They want her to read her books, make them food, go for a walk, etc. Not a single one says “Want some help?” It all ends well though with a party and a baby showing (the baby is so little she hardly makes a peep, wish human babies were more like hedgehog babies if this is true). In Jez Alborough’s Ssssh Duck, Don’t Wake the Baby, Duck visits Mama Goat and is disturbed by how much attention Mama Goat pays to Baby Goat. Baby Goat meanwhile wreaks havoc and gets Duck in trouble. Similar to the situation in Hedgehog’s Surprise, you feel for Duck, but Duck is also kind of selfish. Am I supposed to share this book with my single friends? Read it together? Wouldn’t that be a definite example of what people complain about when their friends have kids (come on over…. for a glass of wine and a children’s book reading, actually forget the glass of wine). The movie “Friends with Kids” is apparently a film about these changes, in a medium that could more normally be enjoyed by parents and non-parent friends together. I just know about it from reviews though, haven’t seen a film in the theater since my daughter was born.