One of the pleasures of having a kid is getting to read to the kid. Of course, since the Infant is still an infant, the kind of books we get to read to him are picked not for their ability to hold his attention, but the opposite: to convince him sleep is a much better alternative to having another damn page read to him.
The best book we’ve found so far along those lines has been that old “classic” Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd. It’s a nice short book with no plot line and incredibly boring art sure to put any kid to sleep half-way through, which is why, I suspect, it’s a classic. It certainly isn’t a classic for any other reason. In fact, after two months of it being our go-to sleepy time book, it’s become obvious to me the book, short as it is, is perhaps the most complexly awful kid’s book ever. Here’s some reasons why:
1. Expectations Dashed – For a book called Goodnight Moon, awful strange, don’t you think, that the moon is neither the first thing said goodnight to, nor, as common-sense, poetic symmetry, and the expectations created by the title would seem to demand, the last? The first thing said good night to is the room, and the last a bunch of noises. So why isn’t the book named “Goodnight Room”, Ms. Brown, huh? Just trying to be cleverly post-modern with your arbitrary list of stuff? Or are you just reminding the room and those damned noises that they can be easily replaced by some arbitrary celestial object, and to keep their mouths shut about royalty payments?
2. The Creepy Old Woman – Why exactly is she in the room? And more importantly, how does she get in and out? Ms. Brown goes to great lengths to describe the contents of the room, and then say goodnight to them. No door is mentioned, nor bid goodnight. I suppose the old gal could have crawled in through a window, but at her age, would that be safe? My best guess is she teleported in. Just to tell the kid hush. Kinda a waste of technology, if you ask me.
3. The Two Clocks – Why are there two clocks in the room? Whoever decorated the room is playing a dangerous game — they risk creating a child that grows into a time-obsessed adult who, undoubtedly and inevitably, will forgo a social life and friends in favor of pursuing several advanced physics degrees, eventually building a time machine that unravels the very fabric of the cosmos, precipitating the Big Crunch. So, yeah, that’s for that, you bastard interior decorator.
4. The Lazy Cat Myth – There are two cats, and a mouse. And the cats seem to be letting the mouse live a free and happy life. This is clearly canine-backed propaganda perpetuating the myth that all cats are lazy. Oh, wait. They pretty much are all lazy. Never mind.
5. The Mitten Fetish – For the entire book, a pair of mittens share a drying rack with a pair of socks. Until the mittens are said goodnight to, when all of a sudden they are alone on the rack. Where did the socks — which reappear mysteriously on the very next page — go during the interim? Perhaps the old lady teleported them away. But wherever they went, it is clearly a sign that the artist had an unhealthy thing for mittens. If you know what I mean.
6. The Bedside Phone – There’s a fully-wired phone. Right there next to the kid’s sleeping head. Beside the obvious question of what does a kid need a phone in his room for anyway, aren’t the missing parents just asking for trouble? The kid’s gonna wake up every time the phone rings. Those old-fashioned phones, they weren’t exactly quiet.
7. The Unattended Mush – A bowl of cold mush is left out on the bedside table on the last page, and as the old lady has already teleported away, we can assume that’s where the mush will stay all night. And you know what? That’s how you get ants.
But at the end of the day, teleporting old ladies and arbitrarily-ordered lists aside, the book continues to deliver as a make-’em-want-to-sleep bedtime book. The Infant turns the pages himself, rapidly, two or three at a time, and when we reach the end, he bites the book, giggles, and throws it to the floor, ready to hit the crib and be done with the day–and no, smart ass, he does not say goodnight to everything in the room.