We found this little book at a thrift store sidewalk sale and I immediately recognized it as a book I had when I was a kid. Children’s book legend Mercer Mayer’s 1978 Little Monster’s Neighborhood is for my money the best book in the Little Monster series (not to be confused with his Little Critter series). The plot isn’t really as the story features Little Monster simply describing different things in and around his hometown. Truthfully, the book is more of trip down memory lane for me as I remember the faces of the different monsters at the market, gas station and doctor’s office. Little Monster’s Neighborhood is one of those books that LTD reads to himself at bedtime and since that is a quiet activity that is the only recommendation needed.
Children’s book legend Syd Hoff tells a simple story in Captain Cat, a story that avoids the politics of the Military-Industrial Complex to focus on a cat who wanders on to an army base. The training soldiers adopt the cat and award him the (I assume honorary) title of Captain. The story is simple as Captain Cat joins the squad and has fun with the new recruits and even makes a best friend. However, the only reason I’m bringing any of this up is because last night when I was reading this to LTD I got to the part where one page had the all the soldiers marching in the rain and the mud and the next where Captain Cat was sleeping on the bed instead of joining the troops like he did when they went to the mess hall or KP duty. I started laughing out loud and then the little guy cracked up. He really didn’t know why I was laughing but he started laughing anyway, really hard and so I suggest Captain Cat if you want to wind up your kid before bedtime.
As long time Beyond the Car Seat readers know LTD has long been a big fan of Halloween and most things spooky and so for a few weeks all he wanted to read at bed time was the amazing Carl Reiner’s 2003 tale Tell Me a Scary Story…But Not Too Scary! The story centers on a young boy and his mysterious new neighbor. The boy does that I’m scared and don’t want to look but I know I’m going to look anyway thing. The story, which is told in the first person by the boy, begins each section with narrator stopping and asking if things are too scary and if he should continue or not. This disclaimer provides plenty of fun as the little guy says he doesn’t want to go on, then quickly says yes turn the page.
One of the plot points revolves around a glass eye that I told LTD was a marble. And with that in mind I will leave you with this incident. Last night, LTD wanted to read Tell Me a Scary Story… however what The Mommy and I heard was that he wanted to read the Richard Scarry book about marbles. It took about twenty minutes, but it all got sorted out in the end.
A buddy of mine was dealing with his 10 year old son the other day and he told him that he sounded like a broken record. Of course, his son quickly said what’s a record? With that in mind I present 2008’s Raining Cats and Dogs by Will Moses. The book offers simple easy to understand explanations for the everyday expression we tell our kids. Expressions that traditionally result in a toddler missing the point, for instance, when you tell a three year old that they are in a pickle the conversation goes off in an entirely different and unintended direction. One of the strengths of the book is that you can skip pages with ease (when you are tired) and the story doesn’t suffer since it is basically a dictionary. Each expression is followed by funky art, a straightforward meaning and an example of use in everyday life.
Spill the Beans: Someone is supposed to keep a secret-but instead tells all. “What was in the pail was supposed to be a secret, until Georgiana spilled the beans and told everybody.”
The Bear Went Over the Mountain by Iza Trapani converts the classic children’s song into book form with amazing results. She uses big splash panels to fill up the whole page with a big bear and bright colors. The titular bear journeys through all four seasons using his senses to explore the area near and over said mountain. The detailed yet fun art shows the bear’s expressions really well especially when encounters a porcupine and disturbs a nest of bees. Trapani shows us the bear’s sense of whimsy and fun during his adventures from hibernation using his sense of smell and touch, etc. The book includes the original song and music if you feel like getting out the piano and teaching your little one the song.
LTD’s aunt and uncle have experienced the little guy’s love for all things Superman first hand and so for his third birthday they hooked him up with a copy of Superman Classic: I Am Superman. The ‘I Can Rea’ book from Michael Teitelbaum with illustrations by Rick Farley provides a great introduction to the Man of Steel. The book features huge splash page drawings and simple easy to understand narration. From the Fortress of Solitude to the streets of Metropolis, the tale allows us to enter the world of Earth’s greatest hero. I like it because it brings up Krypton, Lois Lane, Lex Luther and Kryptonite so LTD can go full method acting when donning his costume. The only thing missing from the story is Krypto the Super Dog, but that is okay as the little guy has taken to calling our dog Krypto.
Beth Bracken’s Too Shy for Show and Tell centers around a quiet boy (giraffe) named Sam. Sam has a lot of passions including a fondness for trucks and cake, however nobody knew any of this due to Sam’s shyness. Of course readers know all too well that conflict is drama and Sam’s school show and tell is coming up. Show and tell presents a huge problem for Sam. As long time Beyond the Car Seat readers know I never spoil the ending of these books, but I will say what you can already guess that Sam does indeed present at show and tell and survives. The reason I feel this book warrants a mention is the minimalist approach taken in explaining the story. The tale is presented in a simple way without being overly simple or sappy. I am fond of saying specific goals get specific results and Too Shy for Show and Tell focuses on one issue, solves it and concludes.
Normally, I don’t go in for revisionist history, but when it comes to fairy tales I’m ready to be taken on a journey. Especially, as society has changed so much since the days when I used to wait for my prince to come. That is why this years Seriously, Cinderella Is So Annoying!; The Story of Cinderella as Told by the Wicked Stepmother is pretty funny. The story by Trisha Speed Shaskan with art by Gerald Guerlais features the wicked stepmother telling the story of Cinderella. Of course, LTD doesn’t really understand irony or sarcasm (believe me, I have tried), but the tale makes me laugh and after a long day sometimes that is more important. The basic gist is that the stepmother was just looking to get married to this nice guy and was happy to help him raise his daughter who she calls Cindy. However, problems begin right away with the house being run down and full of dust. Another obstacle is the fact that Cindy won’t stop talking and telling stories about robins, sparrows, squirrels and rats helping her with the laundry and other chores, as if. Another hiccup occurs at the ball where the stepmother’s daughters are dancing and having a good time when this real knockout basically crashes the party. As usual, I won’t spoil the ending, but it involves advice for the prince who marries Cindy.
I don’t know anyone who didn’t have this book in their house when they were growing up. I hadn’t seen it in many years and didn’t even remember it, but now that LTD has his own copy the uncomfortable-ness came screaming back. I am of course speaking about Blanche Fisher Wright’s 1916 classic The Real Mother Goose. In theory by now you have seen the cover and recognize that you had this book when you were a kid. However, if you are like me and have no memory of what is actually in it, allow me to remind you. The book includes traditional rhymes, riddles, songs, and stories like Miss Muffet, Baa, Baa Black Sheep and The House That Jack Built. All innocent enough until you realize that the classic rhymes from your youth are way different then you actually remember. Perhaps the icing on the cake and the perfect illustration of this fact can be found in the original words to The Old Lady That Lived in a Shoe or as it is actually titled, There Was an Old Woman.
“There was an old woman who lived in a shoe. She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do; She gave them some broth without any bread; Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.”
That’s right, she whipped them and put them to bed simply because she had too many of them and she was overwhelmed because of the shoe housing situation. I could go on and on about how crazy this rhyme is but I think it speaks for itself. I get that the book is almost a hundred years old and should be taken in context, but it might be time for a warning label.