Friday, June 24, 2011

Bukowski (sort of) for Toddlers

The Robot and the Bluebird by David Lucas is, as Publisher's Weekly pointed out, more apt to work on adults than on kids.  The story goes that a robot's mechanical heart is broken, and he lies despondent on a junk heap day and night.  It is here that in winter he meets a bluebird, struggling to fly south.  Of course he suggests that the bluebird live in the empty place where his heart used to be, and the robot uses his remaining strength to walk south to a more temperate climate.  Releasing the bluebird from his chest is his dying act, and his husk becomes a refuge for birds of all shapes, colors and sizes.

This story kind of pulled on my heartstrings.  Just a little bit.  I found out it's apt to appeal to dads more than moms when I read aloud the last page and my wife glared at the book with disgust.  Wyatt was indifferent to the book.  I seemed to be the only one upon whom the story was working.  "So he died?" my wife mouths over Wyatt's head.  I shake my head "yes."

In my mind the death and sacrifice in the story isn't any more extreme than The Giving Tree.  I suppose the robot makes this a guy book.  I suppose it may also have to do with the fact that I thought of "Bluebird" by Charles Bukowski, a very guy-macho poem, which probably won't be suitable bedtime reading until Wyatt's six.  Maybe seven.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Children's Book Review: Cause and Effect... continued

If you don't know who Scaredy Squirrel is, your life lacks color, meaning... and probably a three year old.  Scaredy Squirrel at Night by Melanie Watt is a very cute story tackling one of the toughest topics a parent can face: nightmares.  I can remember laying in bed as a kid dreaming up all kinds of nonsense at three a.m. the voices in my head screaming away, and irrational fears winning the day... or night, that is.  Wyatt's always seem to involve spiders.  Scaredy is, of course, scared of a whole slew of different creatures, so he decides to stay up all night by undertaking a variety of hobbies, such as scrap booking.

The book includes some of the real life side effects of sleeplessness, such as poor reflexes, moodiness, and hallucinations.  He has read in his horoscope (he's a Libra) that at midnight, all of his dreams will come true, so he begins his Bad Dream Plan Action Plan (see below).  His plan involves a spotlight, cupcakes, banana peel, fire extinguisher, safety cones, fan, molasses, decoy, pillow and blanket, and teddy bear.  The Plan will repudiate all of Scaredy's most feared creatures, and had me wondering how they will work together to tell a story.

The Plan, in a cruel twist of fate, involves hungry raccoons (they were drawn in by the cupcakes and molasses; their shadows looked very monster-like because of the spotlight)  and Scaredy ends up falling victim to his own traps.  He remembers the caveat that if all else fails, one should "play dead" until morning, so he plays dead... only to fall asleep!  The next day he awakes refreshed, and we get a list of some of the real-life effects of a good night's sleep.

The book is very clever and shows little kids the power of cause and effect by stringing together some very unpredictable events to tell a story.  For a cartoon that does the same, tune in to the exploits of Finn and Jake on Adventure Time.

For other posts on children's books click here, herehere, or here.