Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Bedtime Reading: 5/8

It's been a few weeks since I've done this, but here we go again:

Grover and the Everything in the Whole Wide World Museum by Norman Stiles and Daniel Wilcox, illustrated by Joe Mathieu

Another one of the great old (1970s) Sesame Street books; it's not quite as much fun as The Monster at the End of This Book (the first taste of metafiction for every preschooler of my generation), but it's still quirky and engaging. This was probably originally meant as an introduction to a lot of basic concepts and names of things for little kids, since Grover wanders through rooms with lots of labeled objects, but what makes it interesting for kids (and more fun for the adult reading it) is all the stuff out of place, and the other various jokes. Plus, you're pretty much required to do a Grover voice while reading it. As far as I know, this is still in print, and has been continuously for thirty years...ah, the power of licensed products!

One Monster After Another by Mercer Mayer

Another classic Mayer book -- "classic" being, again, the 1970s. (Not just because that was my heyday as a kid -- though I'm sure that's part of it -- but also because Mayer was doing a lot of neat books like this during that time.) Mayer has a great illustrative style, a bit cartoony with lots of details and wonderful expressiveness to his character's gestures. This one is a "one darn thing after another" book, in which one girl's letter to her friend is repeatedly hijacked by odder and odder creatures. Monster doesn't have the density of background details that some of Mayer's books of this era do -- there's not even a single reference to "Island Joe" -- but the strange names for the monsters make up for that. (This book also gives me the chance to say "official" a lot -- it's used quite a bit near the end, and I load that up as an adjective to every noun until Thing 2 complains -- which is entertaining for me, at least.) The edition I have is a recent reprint (McGraw-Hill 2003), so it should be pretty easy to find.

Good Night, Mr. Night by Dan Yaccarino

If anyone out there is looking for a new quiet "go to sleep" book, I'd greatly recommend this one. I love Yaccarino's art, with its big slabs of solid, painterly color, and I've liked all of his books that I've seen. (He's also the guy behind the short-lived Nickelodeon show Oswald, which some may remember -- that was a book first, and that one's a great read-aloud as well.)

Good Night is about Mr. Night, who wakes up when the sun sets -- he's the night sky personified. The short text is about a kid settling down to sleep, and talking about how Mr. Night settles the world down to sleep every night. At the end, the kid wakes up in the morning...which is when Mr. Night goes to sleep. It's sweet and clever and a great way to end a day. (I have it in paperback from Harcourt; I believe it's still in print.)

Grandpa Gazillion's Number Yard by Laurie Keller

I believe I've mentioned Laurie Keller before; her previous book, Arnie the Doughnut, is one of my kids' all-time favorites (and one which I don't mind reading every so often, even though doing it right takes a good half-hour). She's also done The Scrambled States of America, a great book about the inter-personal conflicts and lives of the US states, and the only slightly less cool Open Wide: Tooth School Inside (about teeth going to school).

It's with purest admiration that I say that Keller is a world-class goofball;her art is very exaggerated and cartoony, and both writing and art will take detours at any time to make dumb (but very funny) jokes.

Grandpa was probably sold to its publisher as a generally educational book about the numbers one to twenty, but it's awfully goofy (again, I mean that as a high compliment). The titular Grandpa runs a business where he sells numbers (large, colorfully-colored numbers), and, through the course of the book, he expounds on their various uses. For example, a 5 can be used as a snorkel if you're buried under a mound of mashed potatoes, and a 16 makes a great phone to tell a giant meatball that he's just sat on you.

As I said: totally goofball, totally enjoyable.

I'm not sure if this is out in paperback yet; we bought it in hardcover because we're such fans of Keller's stuff -- it was published in 2005 by Holt.


Chris Roberson said...

I'm intrigued by Good Night, Mr. Night (around our household we usually just follow the evening book selection--these days it's usually a Little Golden Book of one variety or another--with a recitation of Goodnight Moon, which we've been doing long enough that we may not be able to get away from it until my daughter starts high school), but the link to Oswald worries me. We haven't tried the original book, but watched the animated series on Nick, and it always freaked me out a little bit. I think it was the sentient, walking flower that I had the hardest time getting my head around.

We found a terrific Sesame Street book a while back, that I later remembered from my own childhood, The Sesame Street Storybook. Long out of print, but full of all kinds of goodness. It was published in '71, before they'd really codified a lot of the Sesame Street world, and even features quickly abandoned characters like Herbert Birdsfoot (a personal favorite). Worth picking up if you chance upon it second hand.

John Klima said...

I love ONE MONSTER AFTER ANOTHER! I still have my copy of the book from when I was a kid! Those illustrations are awesome.

Of course, at our house (with a 14 year old) we do GOODNIGHT GORILLA and Boynton books and the like.

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