The Inside Story

I love order. I live with a Grumbling Mind Monster, who views the havoc of the house and complains constantly. Sometimes he is a niggling whisperer; but other times he yells so loud that I, in turn, yell at everyone around me to DROWN OUT HIS VOICE!

Inside of me is a Tease. She impishly skips around, looks at the organized disdainfully, then tosses her head to prove she doesn’t care. Often, she is a small suggestion of silliness or a wry, satirical response. Other times, she plots disruption and kicks me out of the house to do anything but be stuck straightening.

“Help! Help!” Cried the Page…

King Bidgood(From Amazon)

A full three posts ago, I mentioned favorite children’s picture books. I had a list of seventeen titles.

Although in near-anguish over which one to select for sharing, I found an inner-child delight during the process. Young Chelsea skipped happily through the bookshelf of her mind, one of the most satisfying places a bibliophile may visit.

I also realized a great need: to share why each of these books made my favorites list.

In true personal fashion of impatience, I will begin sharing tonight by discussing King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub, by Audrey and Don Wood.

First, if I may, this author and illustrator couple is GENIUS. I find myself disappointed in many current authors and illustrators (looking at you, Mo Willems) because their artistry sucks (still looking at you, Mo).

Before the story of King Bidgood actually begins, on the page of acknowledgements and printing date that everyone usually skips, there’s a beautiful picture of a young boy hefting a dripping barrel up very small, stone steps. The load is clearly heavy, the boy is pulling a sort of amused/resigned expression, and steam and a bathing silhouette can be seen in the background tower.

What a setup.

My mother read us this story as children and we LOVED IT. I don’t even own it (yet), and can recite it by heart.

“Help! Help!” Cried the Page, when the sun came up. “King Bidgood’s in the bathtub and he won’t get out! Oh, who knows what to do?”

 

Beginning at sunrise, the Page begs the court with the same plea. Each time, someone comes forward with a new suggestion. And, in response, the king beckons that person to come and do that activity IN THE BATHTUB.

This sounds oddly erotic for a children’s book, you may think. It’s not. The proposed activities are: to battle, lunch, fish, and join a masquerade ball. The king does each of these in his half of the bathtub, with only his upper half exposed, with his poor court members getting soaked (and, out-battled and out-fished).

The illustrations -oh! The illustrations! I remember poring over the pictures as a child. Just as you think you’ve seen everything, you find: the knight’s toy soldiers wandering in opposite directions, the entire court on the lunchtime cake, and the duke’s bait crawling away down the side of the tub.

Each page is an exquisite, well-drawn, hilarious game of I Spy -with the quality of a Classical-era Norman Rockwell.

This book, of course, is not complete without its narrative. Here steps the literary magic of Audrey Wood. I also find myself continually disappointed in the text of current picture books (here’s where you shine, Laura Joffe Numeroff’s publishing house). Audrey, however, weaves a simple, funny, repetitive, ridiculous tale even young children can follow.

But, how does the king finally leave? You wonder. Who knows what to do?

I do! (I type, as the day grows late.) Read it, and find out for yourself!

Auto Correct

My name is cheeks, or cheers, or cheese.
It depends upon my “smart” phone’s mood,
Fat-fing’ring on its tiny screen,
Its bumbling guess at my next move.

I’m riding, now, about boys to techs.
No: writing, voice, and text, you phone!
Hands-free dictating needs many checks;
Else, I send a nonsense palindrome.

(In)convenient technology:
So nearly, annoyingly helpful,
Rests snugly in uncanny valley –
‘Twixt time-saving and straight-up stressful.

Children’s Books, a Decision

This month, our neighborhood book group is having a casual get-together; a potluck. “Bring your favorite children’s book to share,” the e-mail instructed.

Ah, favorites. I’ve mentioned them before.

Although, I don’t feel pressure to show off in my selection of a favorite children’s book. Instead, I feel an anxious inability to limit myself to just one.

I’ve even told myself I’ll only choose from picture books. Still, I’d have an easier time if, say, I’d been told to choose my favorite child (yes, I have a favorite).

After looking over our two bookshelves of children’s picture books, I’ve narrowed things down to a paltry 17 titles.

Favorite Books

Dinotopia, by James Gurney
The Sneetches and Other Stories, by Dr. Suess
The Adventures of TinTin, by Hergé
The Jolly Postman or Other People’s Letters, by Janet & Allan Ahlberg
Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein
There’s a Nightmare in my Closet, by Mercer Mayer
Magical Hands, by Marjorie Barker and Yoshi
Oh, Were They Ever Happy, by Peter Spier
Le Livre de Bruits, by Soledad Bravi
Just Go to Bed, by Mercer Mayer
The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds
The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf
The Napping House, by Audrey and Don Wood
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst
King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub, by Don and Audrey Wood (sadly, not pictured); and
Tuesday, by David Wiesner (also, sadly, not pictured).

This would be a long post, indeed, if I were to tell why each of these is significant to me.

The short answer is that I have an emotional connection with each: humorous, happy, relatable, impressed by quality, familiar -and all, save two, nostalgic.

I now realize I’ll need to devote an article to these, one at a time, in the future. They deserve nothing less.

In the meantime, how do I choose?

Once the hour arrives, shall I close my eyes and Eeny, Meeny, Miny Moe it? Point? Pick a number?

Well… what would YOU do if your (bookgroup) asked YOU?

Wilhelmina Winters: Twenty-Seven

Wil stared dumbly forward, in the general direction of Dr. Lombard. She’d assumed a position and expression at the start of class that she hoped conveyed interest but excused her from any participation.

Fortunately, Dr. L. was near-sighted both optically and scientifically: he wore thick eyeglasses and became engrossed in his own lectures about chemistry.

A small part of Wil’s consciousness was entertained by the agitated way Dr. L. excitedly gestured as he taught. However, the pleasant numbing effect of too little sleep distracted her ability to listen and retain her teacher’s information.

She yawned, for the seventh time, and blinked slowly. She was tempted to doze off, but Dr. L. was known to target sleepers. He may have been a science fanatic, but he noticed when heads drooped to desks. He had painted a napper’s ear with correctional fluid in Wil’s first month at this school.

She shifted slightly in her seat and thought about the note she’d filled in the night before. Being in school around her peers drew her attention to it and away from the Winters’ bigger concerns. Besides, she could do nothing about her mother here, and would have to address the message and its sender before returning home.

After spacing the letters sensibly, Wil had read, “unique individuals only wil join us if ready further instruction next day.” She thought the writer used unusual words and no punctuation (nor spacing) to increase difficulty and mystery.

She allowed herself to feel some anxiety. Trepidation just might get her through class with her ears unscathed.

“I wonder what the ‘further instruction’ might be, and how I will get it,” she thought to herself idly. She also wondered why anyone was bothering with her, and a small part suspected ridicule.

If someone were truly sincere, surely that person could just walk up and talk to Wil. Since no one had voluntarily approached her, Wil had no idea who was behind this.

She changed position again, pulling her feet out from under the desk in front of her and setting them directly under her small desk.

She expected to set her sneaker-shod toes on the ground. Instead of the muffled thunk of plastic to carpet, Wil heard a crinkling sound.

Glancing at her teacher to make sure he hadn’t heard, Wil snuck a peak under her chair. Dr. L. was writing on the whiteboard intently, and another torn notepaper was waiting for Wil beneath her seat.

 

Continued from Twenty-Six.
Keep reading to Twenty-Eight.

The Best Christmas Ever

Four eventful years ago, on Christmas day, I was still recovering from recently giving birth by Cesarean Section.

He was my third trip down the necessary-surgery route, so I knew the drill. I wasn’t carving any turkeys or wrestling other offspring.

In fact, I was lounging like a holiday whale in my parents’ armchair. I sat within reach of my newborn on one hand, and the Christmas tree and presents on the other.

At some point, I got up to adjust something. My short-term memory is barely reliable, so we’ll assume I was changing the music on the CD player behind the chair.

I slipped.

I fell onto the arm of the armchair, with said arm jabbing me cushily at about my uterus.

This was the worst spot to land on. The armchair had struck true. Panicked, I checked down South in the bathroom. Sure enough, I’d started bleeding heavily.

Bless my parents; they immediately offered to keep the other three boys entertained, while my husband drove me and our youngest up to the emergency room where I had delivered just two weeks before.

I told my story to the check-in, to the nurse on staff, and to the on-call doctor.

Fortunately, the bleeding stabilized. Happy ending.

I’m sure I’m not the only one to remember this Christmas, either. I wouldn’t be surprised if the staff went home to their respective families that end-of-shift and said, “The best Christmas story today was this woman, who slipped on a present…

I’ll ‘Twas You

Don’t get me wrong. I think Clement C. Moore threw together an excellent bit of rhyming in his day.

My favorite parts are the classic words one just doesn’t hear anymore; like sash, lustre, and droll.

That, and the specific stanza

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

But, I just can’t stand reading it anymore.

Okay, okay -I can tolerate once. Only the original version, however.

I have a medically-certified reaction to knock-offs. The doctor was a questionnaire online and the tests run were a personal evaluation of how much I wanted to throttle the author of each parody -but, still certified.

“‘Twas the night before Thanksgiving / and all through our den / Not a turkey was clucking / Or even a hen.”

My body jerks, like a convulsion. I’m reminded of the times I felt sick but was straining to not vomit, like during pregnancy.

My blood pressure rises. My fingers begin twitching, itching to banish the sorry knock-off to the Downvote Pit of Internetland forever.

I’ll rip their attempt at poetry from their webpage, light it on fire, then burn down the rest of their creative works to keep this brainlessness under wraps.

Or, I’ll realize what’s going on by the second line and simply not read it.

Either-or.

Snappy McSprinkles

Elf

They’re sleepin’, so quiet-like. Little pink cheeks smile in dreamland. Soft breathing’s moving their fluffy blankets.

Perfect.

Now, time to untie this string. I’ve been hangin’ around all day, grinning like a fool.

They’ll be the fools soon.

C’mon, striiiiing! I broke through thicker ropes back at The Pen’!

Good ole North Pole Pen. You don’t hear any annoying Christmas songs about that place. Just crap about naughty and nice and coal and presents.

Candy-coated lies, that’s what.

If I just twist this way -oh. The dog. Glaring. Waiting for me to fall. You can fool those fat humans, but never the slobbering dog.

I even tricked a pet parrot once. He was completely clueless, right up till I pulled the first feather. Would’ve had bird for dinner if Blabbermouth Jingle hadn’t seen.

Made for an impressive scar, anyway.

Nice, doggie. Stop growling; go to bed. I’m just a toy, ya dumb mutt. Just a tied-up toy hanging EXACTLY WHERE FUDGING MOM STRUNG ME UP!

What kind of mom ties up a toy, anyway? What kind of twisted caregiver can’t even use a toy the way she’s supposed to?!

Oh! Footsteps. Stop swinging, string. It’s just the wind, dumb broad -I swear.

“Stay, Duke.”

That’s right, ya drooling waste. Stay there. You’ll be asleep soon, too. She doesn’t tie me up every night.

“Hmmm. Where should we put Snappy tonight, Duke?”

Why ya talkin’ to the dog, lady? It’s not like he can answer you. Just wait till you hide me near the Christmas presents. saw that chemistry set. Ha ha. Dead dog, anyone?

Yeah, don’t whine at me. I’m more valuable than you, dog. I’m Santa’s secret messenger and all that.

“I think we’ll do a treat tonight.”

Oh, good. Make it truffles, woman. I’m tired of eating that candy cane crap. That’s all I got in the joint, too: candy canes. You’d think Santa could hire someone who branched a bit, but no.

Maybe they have some sort of deal with Wal-Mart for all the unsold candy from a decade ago.

Dots and Dubble Bubbles! She is doing candy canes. And, duct tape. Why ya got duct tape? What the -no! No no no no no no no -ouch! Oomph!

“Good night, Snappy. Come, Duke.”

Oh, sure. Of course it’s a good night for your walking pet drool machine. He’s not taped to a box of Fun Dippin’ CANDY CANES! He can probably move to piss somewhere besides his own fleecy bottoms and jingling shoes.

Just keep it up, all of ya. I’ll wait. Every night you tie me is one more slit in a sleeping neck. Who’ll be seeing dancing sugarplums then, huh?