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.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Dear Aunt Debbie,

Thank you for that excellent round-up.  I don't know when that particular day is going to come (faster, I bet, if Eleanor's friend Ian keeps asking questions and gets one of the books to read), but I'm glad to have some go-to books if that seems like a good way to go.  I'm sure that musicals will play some part in our discussions as well.  "The Sadder-But-Wiser Girl For Me" (Music Man) and "I Cain't Say No" (Oklahoma!) are already staples of our bedtime repertory.  We're just asking for it.

Thoughts of travel and birthdays have made me want tonight to write about one of my favorite classic and extremely strange picture books: Fortunately, written and illustrated by Remy Charlip (who was co-founder of the Paper Bag Players to boot).  Fortunately is among the small stable of books from my own childhood that I made sure to buy for Eleanor early on.  Its pleasing strangeness wears well.

Fortunately alternates between full-color happy pages ("Fortunately, one day Ned got a letter that said, 'Please Come to a Surprise Party.'") and black and white bad-news pages ("But unfortunately, the party was in Florida, and he was in New York").  The genius of this book is how totally strange it gets immediately after setting up this premise:

a friend loaned him an airplane.

the motor exploded.

there was a parachute in the airplane.

there was a hole in the parachute.

there was a haystack on the ground.

there was a pitchfork in the haystack.

And so it goes, through sharks and tigers, with a birthday party coming out of nowhere at the end.  It feels like the kind of one-upping story that a really bright 6-year-old might tell -- total kid-logic.  The repetition also makes it great for a read-aloud, as kids can chime right in.  Eleanor loved this book from very early on, though I do remember a phase when she was disturbed by Ned appearing upside-down in several drawings (as he falls from the airplane).  Each time we got to one of those pages, she'd make us turn the book so he'd appear right-side up. 

I hope you and my mom have an amazing time tomorrow!  I think you are both awesome.

Love, Annie

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