Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #76: Monsters Eat Whiny Children by Bruce Eric Kaplan

I want each of these Book-A-Day posts to stand alone: each a little essay about (more or less) the book in question, but reaching out further than the book for something profound, or funny, or maybe just grumpy. But reading isn't that neatly compartmentalized: one book leads to another, and even different things bounce off each other in your head in ways you couldn't expect. So that first wish will be thwarted, at least some of the time, by fate and chance and references to other things.

Which is a long way around to saying that today's book only turned up because Bruce Eric Kaplan's Everything Is Going to Be Okay was Day 72, and, while researching that post, I noticed that Kaplan had done a couple of picture books that I hadn't heard of before.

One of those books was Monsters Eat Whiny Children, and how could I avoid that? My own children have mostly grown out of the whiny phase into the sullen phase -- not that they're that sullen, most of the time, but they're 16 and 13, so some sull must be expected -- but that's a title designed to make every parent remember the worst days of the Terrible Twos (or Threes, or Fives) and wish for a metaphorical cudgel as well-placed as this book. So: the library had it, and soon I had it, and reading a picture book takes almost no time at all.

Monsters Eat Whiny Children tells the story of Henry and Eve, two "perfectly delightful children who were going through a terrible phase, which is to say they whined all day and night." Their father -- who I'm pretty sure is Kaplan himself -- warns them of the danger of monsters, but they're too whiny to listen, and are soon taken for the stew-pot. But the monsters have their own troubles, much like Kaplan's humans, and squabble over the best recipes for whiny children. Eventually, of course, the children get away, uneaten.

Along the way, there's space for some nice Kaplan lines -- my favorite is "Sometimes it's so hard to figure out if you're in the mood for Indian food." -- and for amusing arguments about how best to prepare whiny children.

Kaplan's style here is blocky and sparse -- just like his cartoons, though given more space to breathe with the absence of panel borders -- unlike anything else I've seen in a picture book, which is quite appealing. (Though some parents will look at his art, declare that it's unfinished or some such bumf, and refuse this book. They are whiny too, in their own way, and should watch out that they're not eaten by monsters.) Monsters Eat Whiny Children is funny, looks interesting, and has a good message sneakily delivered: it delivers on all of the needs of a book designed to be read to small squirming humans. And you still can't beat that title.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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