I wasn’t going to say anything, but School Library Journal has named this one of the best books of 2011, calling it vintage Sendak. This may be vintag...moreI wasn’t going to say anything, but School Library Journal has named this one of the best books of 2011, calling it vintage Sendak. This may be vintage Sendak to someone who orgasms at the sound of the man’s name, but for someone with his/her faculties still in place, this is a huge disappointment.
Bumble-Ardy tells the story of a pig who throws a birthday party for himself against his aunt’s wishes. A large group of pigs, in costume, show up to the party and drink brine. Simple enough.
The illustrations are uninspired and the narrative is just half-assed. I’m all for the nonsensical, but this thing totes itself as a cautionary tale. When I compare this to Where the Wild Things Are, In the Night Kitchen, and Outside Over There, I can’t help but notice how rough it feels. What’s the warning here? Don’t disobey your parents? Thanks, Maurice, I’ll hold on to that one.
I was just reading an article in some publication about how contemporary children’s books are tanking. The explanation provided suggested that new books for kids feature plots that are jokes. They’re cute ideas told in as few words as possible. When we compare this to classic books, such as Goodnight Moon, Corduroy, and, dare I mention, Where the Wild Things Are, these books have nothing. You can’t read them multiple times without tiring of them very quickly.
Take, for example, Mo Willems’ Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. It’s got lovely illustrations and it’s really fun to read aloud. But tell me how you feel when your kid asks you to read it a second time (in a row) and then a third. You’ll grow to hate that pigeon, mark my words. But Where the Wild Things Are? That doesn’t happen. You always find something interesting, whether its the intricacies of the plot, the subtle pieces of illustration you never noticed (even though you’ve read it at least one hundred times), or the philosophy. There’s always something. You don’t let out a groan when the kid asks to read it again, because, secretly, you kind of want to, too.
I never want to read Bumble-Ardy again. I am bothered by the fact that I bought it for my daughter instead of getting it from the library. What can I do? She likes pigs. She’ll want to read it multiple times for that reason alone. But will she remember it fondly when she looks back on it as an adult?
No. Because Bumble-Ardy is a poor character. His friends are poor characters. His aunt is a poor character, as is the rest of his family. The story has no development and very little plot. The themes are simplistic and, honestly, not worth a second glance. The images would be completely forgettable if they didn’t have that Sendak quality to them- that cool kind of creepiness. But the subject matter is lame, and there’s no getting around it.
Bury me with my Wild Things, but keep this goddamned pig away from me.(less)
“I’d like to renew my driver’s license,” Alice said as she walked up to the counter. She was a youthful woman in her mid-forties (though you wouldn’t...more“I’d like to renew my driver’s license,” Alice said as she walked up to the counter. She was a youthful woman in her mid-forties (though you wouldn’t know that to look at her) with a radiant glow and attractive laugh lines. She was modestly dressed, business casual, but with a cool vintage ribbon in her hair.
“Next!” the woman at the counter shouted.
Alice frowned. “Excuse me, ma’am. I’m next.”
“Next!” the woman shouted again, quite ignoring Alice’s words.
A large sweaty man rushed past her, bumping her on his way. “Excuse you,” he said.
“You bumped in to me!” Alice said indignantly.
“Yes, I know,” he said and turned to face the counter.
Alice tapped him on the shoulder. “That was quiet rude, you know. You don’t just bump into someone, nearly knocking her off her feet, and act as if she should apologize.”
The man looked momentarily perplexed, then angry. “You made me miss my turn!”
“It wasn’t your turn,” Alice said calmly. “It was mine.
“I am standing at the counter. Clearly it is my turn.”
Alice thought on that a moment. As she did, a pair of twins ushered their way past, bumping into both her and the sweaty man. They didn’t say anything.
“Excuse you!” Alice snapped.
“That’s very rude,” the sweaty man scolded. “You said so yourself.”
“I said no such thing,” Alice replied quickly. She turned away from the man, who kept repeating over and over again that she was being rude and how would she like it if someone spoke to her that way. With both hands, she reached out an tapped a shoulder of each twin at the counter. They did not turn around.
“I just wanted to say that you are very rude,” she said to their backs.
The woman at the counter leaned out over the twins, using their heads for support, as she shouted, “Next!”
“Why do you keep calling for more people,” Alice asked. “When you haven’t even help those who are standing right in front of you?”
The woman glared at her. “They,” she said, pointing. “Are identical twins. Identical twins have to fill out this form in order to be helped.”
“Why do they have to fill out a special form?”
“Because we have to be able to tell them apart if we’re to give them their licenses. They’re identical.”
The twins turned around and shrugged. They watched Alice’s face turn red. “They are not identical!”
“Yes, they are.”
“No, that one’s a man and that one’s a woman.”
“It doesn’t matter what they are; they look the same.”
“They don’t look the same.”
“Yes, they do.”
“They have strikingly different genitals,” Alice said, pointing to their open trench coats.
“Hold on one moment,” Alice insisted.
“Next!” the woman yelled again before balling up the form and heaving it at Alice.
“How very rude!” she exclaimed. She could feel a headache coming on. Wearily, she picked up the form and smoothed it out. The poor naked wretches before her looked as though they might be simple.
“I will help you with this form,” she explained. “What are your names?”
“Ted,” they said in unison.
“What’s your name?” she said to the woman.
“You’re both called Ted?” Alice asked in disbelief.
“How did your mother tell you apart?”
“She didn’t,” the one on the left said. “She killed herself.”
“Oh,” Alice said. “I’m very sorry to hear that.”
“We forgive you,” they replied.
Alice furrowed her brow. “What’s your last name?” she asked, deciding it was best to just move on. She held her pen over the top of the paper, prepared to write.
“Smith,” one said.
“Jones,” said the other.
“You have different surnames?”
“Are you married?” she asked the woman. After receiving another nod, she asked, “Where’s your husband?”
The woman pointed to the man standing next to her.
“He’s your husband? I thought he was your brother.”
“You fuck each other?” Alice asked.
“That’s not right,” Alice proclaimed. “Fill out your own form.”
She marched up to the counter.
“Next!” the woman shouted.
“I’d like to file a complaint,” Alice said, ignoring the fact that she was being ignored.
“Next!” said the woman.
Alice closed her eyes and took a deep breathe. This was supposed to be a normal outing. Just a half hour at the DMV to get a replacement driver’s license. But this shit was always happening to her. It was like the syphilitic hallucinations she used to have as a kid, filled with talking rabbits and angry queens and other such nonsense. She’d had enough of such a rude and irrational world.
Alice reached into her purse and wrapped her hand tightly around a snub-nosed revolver. There were six rounds in the cylinder, but she had an entire box of ammunition in her coat pocket.
Gripping the gun in her hand, she stepped up to the counter.
“Next!” the woman screamed.
“This is for the Disney adaptation,” she said as she shot the woman in the face, her final “Next!” still echoing in the air.
She turned to the sweaty man and shot him in the balls. “That’s for Dodgson and his wandering hands.”
She lined the twins up in her sights. “You two are late for a very important date....with death.”
And, with that, Alice took it upon herself to kill fucking everyone.
Jesus help me, I used to love these books. Every month, on the day the new one would be released, I’d beg my mom to take me to the bookstore so that I...moreJesus help me, I used to love these books. Every month, on the day the new one would be released, I’d beg my mom to take me to the bookstore so that I might fork over my four bucks and be transported into whatever weird fucking thing R.L. Stine had dreamed up that time. The books were never enough, though. It was like I had to pledge my life to Goosebumps. If there was a calendar, a crappy television show, a cheap reading light, or spin off series, I had to have it.
Imagine my joy when I discovered the Goosebumps audiobook collection for sale at a local closeout bookstore. Several of my favorite titles were there for just a couple of dollars each. I bought everything they had. I gleefully took them home and put them on my bookshelf.
I’ve never been the sort of person who can listen to an audiobook as an active activity. But I don’t have much trouble listening to them when doing something else- like going to sleep. So, for a couple of years, I drifted off to the sound of preteens getting themselves into precarious situations.
Perhaps my favorite audiobook of the lot was the classic Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes. In the story, a young boy learns that the lawn gnomes in his neighborhood come to life at night and do all sorts of benign, fratboy-style pranks.The boy, Joe, is at odds with his mean neighbor (who hates his dog, Buster) and is a pain in his sister’s ass. When his suspicions about the animated lawn gnomes grow (or, more specifically, when he starts getting blamed for the shit they’re doing), he sneaks out at night to investigate. In the end, he learns that there is a whole society of gnomes and blah, blah, blah.
This book, though, is strikingly different. The kid in this book is named Jay. And his dog is named Mr. Phineas. Jay is at odds with his mean neighbor, who hates his dog. He’s also a big pain in his sister’s ass. And when Jay realizes that the gnomes are coming to life at night, he doesn’t sit back and do nothing- he sneaks out at night to investigate. When all is said and done, he learns there’s this whole society of gnomes and blah, blah, blah.
Okay, so I will take into account that R.L. Stine is probably dead. And that his corpse probably isn’t writing books anymore. And I will even assume that the intern or whothefuckever that wrote this book did so as a big joke. Let’s say, just to be safe, that the nearly identical storyline is intentional. It makes for a good throwback to the original, right?
I don’t think so. This is almost as bad as children’s television shows being made into books. In this universe of ours there exists a nearly infinite number of Goosebumps storylines. Planet of the Lawn Gnomes should never have been one of them.(less)
The World of Pooh is a motherfucking sausagefest. It’s clever and all, but would it have killed the fucker to put a girl in the story? One who is quir...moreThe World of Pooh is a motherfucking sausagefest. It’s clever and all, but would it have killed the fucker to put a girl in the story? One who is quirky and fun and not acting as a goddamned caretaker for a fucking kangaroo? I have to read this shit to my daughter, and she identifies with characters who are like her. This group of forest-dwelling asshats gives me nothing to work with, as she is not a neurotic bear, a neurotic pig, a tiger with ADHD, a stupid mother kangaroo, a stupid baby kangaroo, a know-it-all-dumb-fuck of an owl, or a suicidal fucking donkey. And, most importantly, she is not some asshole of a little boy who lets his stuffed animals look after themselves in the woods because he’s gotten too big to play with them properly.
This shit gets on my nerves. I can remember watching Winnie the Pooh on television when I was a kid. The show was mostly boring, but I watched it. Because it was a Saturday morning cartoon and that’s just what you did. It seems obvious to me now why so many of my peers grew to be self-involved fuck-ups. It’s like an advertising message; you only have to see a female in a peripheral role (doing a stereotypically female thing (like caring for a child)) so many times before it sticks.
Am I blowing this out of proportion? Probably. But god fuck. I am trying to raise a girl who is the main fucking character in her own fucking story. It would help to provide her with examples, world. My kid doesn’t need Winnie the Pooh. And I don’t think I did, either. I hate that I have to strategically pick what I read to her, knowing well that that the wrong choice might subconsciously reinforce some backwards opinion our culture has seen fit to perpetuate.