Monday, February 15, 2016

Bedtime Stories; Analyzed

The other night at bedtime Ethan wanted to help read a book to Chloe. The rule is two stories, tops: anything else she wants to read goes in the crib with her.

Of course, Chloe didn't want Ethan to read, only mamma, so the compromise that was she would sit in my lap and Ethan would be right next to us and would read one book while I would read the other. That seemed to work. It's just that Ethan managed to turn the occasion into an interrogation.

We started with an abridged version of The Little Engine That Could.

"This book leaves out the part about all the trains that wouldn't help!"
"Yes, I know. This is the version for toddlers."

"Mamma? What's the 'foot of the mountain' mean?"
"It means at the very bottom of the mountain."

"Mamma! Turn back! Why is it that on THIS page the engine is coming from that direction but on the next page it's going a totally different way?"
"Umm...maybe we're just looking at it from a different direction."
"No! There's no way the train can be going that way. They didn't do that right."

I realized he was most likely right. Whoever had illustrated this generic version of the Little Engine had, upon not much inspection, not tried very hard.

I started to wonder if Chloe was going to protest all of these interruptions, but she just went with the flow.

"You know what? I can tell how the Little Engine is feeling by looking at her eyebrows."
"A-ha. I hadn't noticed that before. Good thinking..."

"And why do all the toys on this train look upset except the clown? They should be happy they're going up the mountain!"

And thus, it took us about 15 minutes to read a 10-page board book. This is what happens when you have a very literal child who has a keen sense of detail.

We moved on to the next book. Dora the Explorer. This night was feeling longer by the minute. Never mind Ethan, there are many questions I would like to ask about Dora, such as: Why does your pet monkey wear boots? and Why do your parents care little if you wander through spooky forests or are accosted by a grumpy old troll all by yourself?

Ethan insisted on reading the Dora book. "You don't have to read the Spanish parts!" I added generously, thinking of him laboriously sounding out each word. It had been a long day.

"Why does Tico say he's going to teach Dora's baby brother and sister Spanish? They're babies!"

Here we go.

"Mama? Why does it say her house is so far away? You can see it right there!"
"Well, you a kid these things are relative. Things seem farther away to a child than they actually are." I was talking more to myself than him at this point.

"I don't get this. They tell Dora to take the third path with the frog, but the crocodile and the snake are right there next to the other paths and could just go right through the trees and get her."
"Well, it's not supposed to be exact. They're just trying to teach kids which path to take."

With every question, the Dora book was becoming more ridiculously stupid than I already considered it.

"Wait! Turn back the page! Why is there a fence around her house at the beginning and not at the end of the book?"

Well, wouldn't you know? Of course he was right. Did the people who put these books together make any sort of effort? The editor in me started to get cranky. Or maybe it's because I probably could have headed off to bed myself.

Finally, we arrived at the book's conclusion. Ethan attempted to analyze which of the family members gathered to celebrate the birth of Dora's brother and sister were her actual mother and father, and debated whether or not the babies were really smiling at Dora, but I gently urged things along.

"And another thing..." he was on a roll. "In Chloe's book about going potty, why does the kid say, 'Want to know a secret? You can do it too!' It's not a secret. He's just telling her to go potty!"

And so, a half-hour later, we had finished the two books. I love cuddles and stories with my kids. But realizing lame children's books are even lamer than I'd previously thought, well...

I know there's got to be a way for Ethan to harness these kinds of skills. I mean, honestly, isn't that what I do half the time with my freelance work? I'm searching for out of place commas and dashes that aren't the right length and words that just don't fit right.

Sometimes I wonder if the perfect job for him might indeed be playing a video game over and over and finding every single possible glitch.

For now, story time just got a lot longer, and a lot more involved.

No comments: