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.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The sequel that ate the author

Dear Annie,

Sometimes one or two books that turn out to be commercial successes take on a life of their own and swallow their authors, forcing them into sequel after sequel.  I'm thinking here first of Mercer Mayer, whose Little Critter books you gently criticize.  I am very un-fond of them -- feel they're barely a step up from the dreaded Berenstain Bears.  The driving force behind the series is to give lessons in behavior, rather than to tell a story or engage a kid in other ways.  But Mayer has done some good books, too. 
A boy, a dog and a frog
, his first book, is a wordless delight showing a boy and his dog trying to catch a frog, who eventually follows them home.  He did several boy/frog books.
evicting the kangaroo
 And then there's
What do you do with a kangaroo?
  Wasn't that one of the books that lived on the kids' bookshelf at my parents' (your grandparents') apartment?  A series of animals attempts to move into a girl's home, making many imperious demands.  What do you do?  You throw them out!  Except that they keep reappearing....  Mayer wrote that one in 1973, a dozen years before Laura Numeroff launched her series with If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, but there are some parallels in the feel of both books: kid at home intimidated by demanding but ultimately lovable animal interloper.  Repetitive structure, giggles of anticipation.  And Numeroff, like Mayer, got taken over by the form and still can't stop cranking them out.

I completely sympathize with your antsiness at reading and re-reading average stuff.  I have misty memories of evenings when Bob and I would get a choice in the picture book rotation too.  Small relief.  It sounds like you might be moving to a broader range of books that both girls will be happy with these days, even if they keep coming back to a few.  Is this true?  Is Isabel getting into longer stuff?



1 comment:

  1. Our on demand cable channel used to have a preschool channel that showed tons of 8-10 minute shorts. A boy, a dog, & a frog was one of them and my son loved it! I'm so glad I'll be able to get the book for him. Thank you.