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Category Archives: Silly stick
Day 62 of our Storybook Year fell on Dr. Seuss’ birthday; he would have been 112 years old yesterday. In his honor, we had a monstrous pile of Seuss books ready to go; it was actually fairly impressive how many of his books we already had on our shelves, but we supplemented with a trip to the bookstore as well. We read “Green Eggs and Ham”, “Ten Apples Up on Top”, “Too Many Daves” (from “The Sneetches”) and “The Cat in the Hat” – which we were able to find in a bilingual edition (“El Gato Ensombrerado”!). We also read “Fox in Sox” back on day 28, and I am sure we will be seeing the good Doctor again at some point (or at several points) during our Storybook Year.
Nothing I can say in one blog post is going to entirely do justice to Dr. Seuss; there were doubtless thousands upon thousands of better, more thoughtful, and more complete tributes to his impact on children’s literature published yesterday. I will simply say “Happy Birthday” to one of the most prolific and talented storybook writers and illustrators of all time, and “Thank You.”
I was always a big fan of lovable, furry old Grover when I was a kid – the flailing arms, the frantic behavior, the goofy voice, his breathless performance of “Upstairs, Downstairs” (on “Monsterpiece Theater – hosted by “Alistair Cookie”), and his fearless crash landings as “Super Grover”. He is also the star of my favorite Golden Book of all time, which we read together tonight: “The Monster at the End of this Book” by Jon Stone.
The plot of this simple but brilliant piece of literature centers on the fact that Grover has read the title and is terrified of meeting the monster at the end of the book. With each turn of the page, the reader, and Grover, get closer to meeting the monster…and Grover becomes increasingly hysterical. He begs and pleads, and even attempts to physically bar the reader from continuing by “nailing” pages together and building a brick wall. Alas, all of his efforts are to no avail, and at last he comes to the end of the book and discovers…well, I guess you have to read it yourself to see!
I love this book, although reading it aloud can result in coughing fits if you actually try to read it as Grover; I did that for a few pages tonight and was rewarded with some priceless giggles. The book invites interaction as Grover pleads with the reader (“should we stop reading now?”…”do you want to go on?”) or erects obstacles (“are you strong enough to turn the page?”…”can you help me, this page is really heavy”). If you read the reviews at Amazon you will find several that talk about the deeper meaning of the book – post-modern angst, we have seen the enemy and it is us, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – but for me it’s just flat-out fun to read and it always makes me laugh. If you find a deeper meaning that resonates with you amid the laughter, so much the better.
Every now and then I run into a storybook that causes me to step back and wonder how, exactly, the author got to this point. Equal parts silliness and outright absurdity, seasoned with a dash of gross-out, “My Little Sister Hugged an Ape” falls into this perplexing category. In the book, the little sister of the title is enthusiastically – even recklessly – hugging her way through the alphabet in rhyming fashion. Along the way, she has a bug crawl up her nose, she inadvertently squeezes milk in her face while hugging a cow, an eel hangs from her nose “like a big glob of snot”, a newt crawls in her mouth, and a moose’s rear end falls off while she is hugging his neck. You see what I mean?
The rhymes do make it fun to read (and listen to), and the illustrations are colorful, goofy and appropriately hyperbolic. When she was younger, our oldest was a big fan of this book – which we checked out from the library multiple times. Our youngest now does not seem quite as enthralled. I think this book is an acquired taste…and I mean that in only the best way possible (bless it’s heart).
Less a storybook than it is a collection of short poems, “Rumble in the Jungle” by Giles Andreae is a fabulous read-aloud selection. There are poems about snakes, zebras, giraffes, leopards, elephants, and many other jungle animals – each one with just the right amount of silly: elephants are “big and fat and round” and “just elephing around”…the zebra has “stripes, which his lady friend likes”, and the crocodile enjoys watching the animals at the river “for a minute or two” and “can’t resist chomping a few”.
The pages in the paperback version we have were large enough to allow everyone to get a good look at the colorful illustrations, even from a distance. Switching from one animal to another on each page also presented the opportunity to use a variety of silly voices, something which I think helped to keep our youngest listener (and our reader) fully engaged.
You can take the piggy out of the middle of the muddy little puddle, but you can’t take the muddy little puddle out of the piggy. At least, that’s what we learned from “The Piggy in the Puddle” by Charlotte Pomerantz.
We originally flagged this book for Global Belly Laugh Day – but didn’t obtain a copy in time. We’re very glad we inserted it in our 365 list, though. It was ooooooh so fun to read:
- See the piggy
- See the puddle
- See the muddy little puddle
- See the piggy in the middle
- Of the muddy little puddle
- See her dawdle, see her diddle
- In the muddy, muddy middle.
- See her waddle, plump and little,
- In the very merry middle.
You see what I mean? And that’s just the first page! It’s a veritable party for your mouth.
After gleefully diving in, the little piggy is scolded by her mother, father, and brother about getting in the “muddy little puddle”…but one-by-one they each give in to their base urges and join her:
- So they all dove way down derry
- And were very, very merry.
And so shall you be – if you dare to add this book to YOUR read-aloud list.
More Mo Willems tonight – and more giggles from our youngest…in large part because the book encouraged the reader (me) to really ham it up! The story, “That Is NOT A Good Ideal!” came complete with Mo Willems’ signature simple illustrations and goofy expressions that always seem to succeed in evoking a smile.
The story takes place in an old-fashioned movie theater. The setting reminded me of the Nickelodeon exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago that I used to enjoy visiting when I was a kid. Several little chicks (goslings, I presume) are watching a movie that shows a mama goose apparently being led astray by a sly fox. At every new development in the story, the chicks cry out “That is NOT a good idea!” with increasing urgency…until their warnings are proven prescient – although not, perhaps, in the way the reader might expect.
All told – NOT reading this book with your kids is NOT a good idea…or, if you don’t like double-negatives: reading this book with your kids IS a good idea! And that is all I have to say about that.
Bet you didn’t know that January 24 was Global Belly Laugh Day! Fortunately, we are here to alert you. In honor of this fabulous global holiday, we read three books carefully selected to evince belly laughs in our target audience…and they did not disappoint.
“There’s a Bird on Your Head” by Mo Willems came first, and our youngest really got a kick out of this one. It is an early reader book, so there aren’t a lot of words, but the story is very silly and the pictures are pretty funny. I expect, in fact I know, that we will have several more Mo Willems book in our 365 project this year.
“Make Way for Dumb Bunnies” was a case of judging a book by it’s cover (and title) at the library, and contrary to the old adage – this approach worked well for us in this case. It helped that we knew the author (Dav Pilkey) from his “Dog Breath” book. In that same vein, Dumb Bunnies is very silly and our oldest laughed out loud several times.
“The Book With No Pictures” by BJ Novak came last, and I think it resulted in the most belly laughs of the night, again from our oldest. Sticking with a common theme, it was absurd and very gratifying. The conceit of the book is that it has no pictures but is still entertaining because the person reading the book MUST say what is written on the pages…and it’s some pretty silly stuff.
Bottom line: out of these three books, if you are picking one for belly laughs, I would pick “There’s a Bird on Your Head” for children five and under, and “The Book With No Pictures” for children older than five.
Update: a couple evenings later, we got ahold of another book we had our eye on for Global Belly Laugh Day: “Dragons Love Tacos” by Adam Rubin. The book was recommended by the New York Public Library, and we found it entertaining and a worthy read aloud storybook, but not gut-busting as the NYPL entry suggested.
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs?!? Have we been lied to for all these years? We had to know, so we added this book by Jon Scieszka to our January reading list. After reading Mr. Wolf’s full testimonial, however, we were a bit skeptical. We also think Mr. Wolf needs to understand that words mean things.
We were with Mr. Wolf through the first half of the book. We agree that his taste for cute and cuddly animals puts him at a public relations disadvantage; if cheeseburgers were considered cute, he queries, would people who eat cheeseburgers not also be considered “Big” and “Bad”? His explanation for heading out to see the three pigs seems reasonable as well: he needed to borrow a cup of sugar for granny’s cake.
However, he started to lose us when, after accidentally blowing down two perfectly good houses, he decides to eat the deceased inhabitants. While his desire not to be wasteful is admirable (hey – free ham!), how do any of us know they were really dead and just not knocked out? Eventually he is foiled by the third pig and his brick house, so he throws a tantrum and is hauled in by the cops for disturbing the peace. We did not like the tantrum – that kind of behavior is never acceptable, and it was particularly disconcerting from an individual who presents himself as calm, cool, and collected.
In the end, he claims to have been “framed” – and here is where we have our biggest quarrel with Mr. Wolf: had he been framed, someone else would have been guilty of all the transgressions he explains away in his yarn – yet he never once denies that it was him all along. We hope that Mr. Wolf will see the error of his ways, and that he will get a dictionary (and enroll in some anger management counseling for his propensity to throw tantrums). For now we are not planning to visit him to give him that elusive cup of sugar.
We found this tale identified as “laugh out loud” funny on a list of books for International Belly-Laugh Day. We didn’t think it was quite at that level, but Sciescka’s venture into fairy tale “true crime” writing, was fun to read aloud – and really fun to review.