Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Goodnight noises everywhere

Over the last seven months, Kitty and I have developed a pretty standard routine. She does everything, while I watch quality television. Mostly. In the evenings I will pick Finn up from daycare and whip up some dinner -- typically something orange & mushy, as orange is a color that he apparently finds delicious. Not like green, which must taste like crap.

From there, it's all mommytime. While I try to put the house back together after Hurricane Ninja & Hurricane Kitty collide, usually in the kitchen, the two troublemakers will retire upstairs for some quality time as Finn gets ready for bed. Apart from occasionally wandering upstairs to giggle at how adorable the boy is in his baby-in-a-bag setup, I stick to the basement with my good friend Horatio Caine.

Lately, however, Kitty has had stuff to take care of in the evening, which has left me on night-night duty. I've learned something very important as a result: night-night duty is awesome. The only time you can actually snuggle with this kid is when he's tied up, and he gets good and tied up for night-night. With the snuggle sack and a super-swaddle blanket on top of it, there's no way he can fight off the kissy-train and he's a captive audience for storytime.

Which leads me to the second important thing I've learned. Most baby books suck. Devoid of character development, illustrated by monkeys and generally lacking in any sort of compelling narrative. I'd like to take a moment to review five of the books that are currently in our bedtime rotation: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?; Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?; The Very Hungry Caterpillar; Guess How Much I Love You?; and of course, Goodnight Moon.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear starts out strong. With a brown bear. But it goes downhill from there. The theme is repetitive, with a new colored animal appearing with every page. The author lost me once he introduced a purple horse and the ending is completely confusing. Are the schoolchildren supposed to represent the animals? Which child is which animal? I think I've got the goldfish pegged, but how do I get the other ones right, especially without seeming racist?

Polar Bear, Polar Bear
, by the same author, is an entirely derivative work, however the action this time does make a little more sense and it is clear at the end that the children do represent the animals. The problem I have with both of these books is that I feel compelled to read them in silly animal voices and I can't remember which voice I used for which animal for previous readings, which just leaves Finn confused and me frustrated. Thumbs down.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar does have a cute little caterpillar and a neat little gimmick whereby the caterpillar eats through an apple, then two pears, three plums, etc. As you work through his meals, you flip little pages with holes in them representing where he's been. Once he's eaten his fill, he builds a cocoon and reemerges a butterfly. Right when you're thinking something cool might happen, you flip the next page and it's blank. The book is over. The butterfly moves to Paramus and stars in dinner theater for all we know. Terrible ending.

Guess How Much I Love You? was the book I read to the Ninja when he was still baking in the oven, so it gets sentimentality points. It's a cute book, but one of the protagonists (Big Nutbrown Hare) is a real jerk. Little Nutbrown Hare spends the whole book telling BNH how much he loves him, only to have BNH try to top him every time. Even at the end, BNH waits until LNH is asleep before totally one-upping him again. That's not cool. Big Nutbrown Hare is an a-hole, if you ask me.

Which brings us to Goodnight Moon, arguably the greatest book ever written. It's understated -- it can be read cover to cover in about 2 minutes. It rhymes funny words (Goodnight mush!). It has surprising developments (Good night nobody? Who saw that coming?!). Plus, it's got the single most soothing closing line in all of literature: Goodnight noises everywhere.

I fell asleep on the keyboard just typing that.

The worst part is that Brown Bear and Polar Bear are Finn's favorite books. He gets a big smile whenever we pick them up. I can't wait to retire them. Goodnight Moon will remain in the rotation indefinitely, but I'm already looking ahead to Dr. Seuss and Richard Scarry. Since those books have actual paper pages, as opposed to the board books that we're reading now, we have to wait until Finn gets past the "reading with his mouth" stage before we can introduce them to storytime.

Paper cuts on the tongue will really kill the night-night vibe.

Before we put the cheetah away for good, here's a quick video of him racing across the Serengeti to attack his delicious prey: the Petunia Picklebottom diaper bag.


Gracie Girl said...

Excuse me, the horse is BLUE and the CAT is purple. Clearly you don't know Brown Bear Brown Bear at all. Ask Finn to read it to you next time.

Daddy said...

I hate that book so much.