In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Pippi and Poppleton

Dear Aunt Debbie,

Your thought about the age at which books become funny to a child makes me think immediately of two we've picked up recently.

The first is an example of the Stuart Little problem: remembering my own love of the book, but forgetting at what age I enjoyed it, I bought Eleanor a copy of
Pippi Longstocking
, by Astrid Lindgren.  Turns out that Pippi's kookiness doesn't fully translate until you've had some experience with school.  Sure, it's kind of odd that she lives with a horse and a monkey, but without the context of rules and expectations that Eleanor will understand later in childhood, the book takes too much explaining, and just isn't funny yet.  We're putting it away to try again in a few years.

The second is a series that hits the funny bone of child and adults in this house at once: Cynthia Rylant's Poppleton. Rylant is also the author of the High Rise Private Eyes series I've written about before; her sense of humor is quirky and odd and totally pleasing, and happily, she's prolific, so there are always more books to check out.  We've read three of the Poppleton books so far; there are eight.

Poppleton is a pig who moves from the city to a small town peopled by a variety of animals: Cherry Sue, the llama next door; Fillmore, the hypochondriac goat; Hudson, a mouse who likes to go to the shore.  The stories are highly random: in our favorite in the first book, Fillmore is sick but refuses to take his pill unless Poppleton hides it in his food:

"I'll put it in the soup," said Poppleton.
"No, it has to be in something sweet," said Fillmore.
"Sweet?" asked Poppleton.
"Sweet and soft," said Fillmore.
"Sweet and soft?" asked Poppleton.
"Sweet and soft with raspberry filling," said Fillmore.
"Sweet and soft with raspberry filling?" asked Poppleton.
"And chocolate on top," said Fillmore.
"Chocolate on...Fillmore, are you talking about Cherry Sue's Heavenly Cake?" asked Poppleton.
Fillmore smiled.

This passage reduces Eleanor to giggles every time.  

Our favorite in Poppleton and Friends is titled "Dry Skin," and is entirely about Poppleton believing he has dry skin, and trying to fix it by covering himself with oil (which makes him want french fries) and honey (which makes him want biscuits).  Each book contains three stories, with brightly colored and personality-filled illustrations by Mark Teague on every page.  We are clearly going to have to read them all.

Love, Annie

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