Tag Archives: reading

Seniors in Hotpants and Toddler Book Reviews

Tuesday is library day, which the girls love because of its set routine.

First, we load water and snacks into the girls’ backpacks and the past week’s books into mine. Then, we walk out of our neighborhood, pausing on our way to stare at the bizarre cacophony of objects in the Vietnam Vet’s front yard.

Doll heads, Snoopy statues, American flags, ancient tools in a gravel maze of cacti and rosebuds… to me, it represents lingering existential puzzles. But for Brontë and Bridget, it’s a Where’s Waldo of disordered beauty. They always point out something random before moving on.

We hit the boulevard where I always pick up Bridget and squeeze Brontë’s hand to cross the street. Knowing this, Bridget reaches both arms up as we approach, then pushes her face into my neck as we wait for an opening before trotting across. I set her down as we continue past the lost animal posters, the guttered fast-food cups, the place where the skateboarding kids’ skunk-toned air turns to jasmine bushes.

The kids greet the Jehovah’s Witnesses sitting in front of the library in flowered dresses and well-ironed suits, then they charge toward their respective book return slots. Bridget always goes to the left, and Brontë to the right. I hand them books to return until my backpack is empty.

Then we walk to the park to play before Storytime begins at the library. Sometimes we meet our neighbor there, but she was busy last week. So instead, the girls ran to the playground after immediately ditching their backpacks and shoes, as they always do.

I sat down on a nearby bench, trying hard not to judge the lady who was at least well into her seventies wearing short-shorts that just walked by because I hate those preachy 30 Things Not to Wear After Thirty lists and shouldn’t be so damn hypocritical. It was warm outside, so I should cut her a break, even if I’d never wear something like that myself. Even Jessica Simpson would have trouble pulling those off.

Showcased flesh aside, I was wondering if we’d have to drive next week because it would be too hot to walk when I noticed Bridget walking up the big, spiral slide again. Dang it… I’m always telling her not to do that because it creates a traffic jam with the kids at the top, but there were no kids at the top right then and sometimes parents have to pick their battles so maybe I’ll just let it slide.

Let it slide, let it slide… shut UP, annoying brain with your terrible puns. Climbing up the slide must be incredibly fun, considering how badly kids want to do it. Like a spiral mountain-climbing event. Aerial geometry. 

And that’s when Bridget started screaming.

I walked over confused, because she’s climbed up that slide a thousand times before.

“They boarded up the slide because the slide is hot,” the grand dame in short-shorts told me.

OH. Bridget’s freaking out because she’s trapped. That makes sense. I reached my arms up toward her.

“Come here, baby,” I said. “I’ll get you down.”

And then loudly, the lady said, “Well, she CAN’T walk down the slide because she ISN’T WEARING ANY SHOES!” (subtext: Only a monster of a mother would let her child run around without any shoes on).

Then, without missing a beat or pausing for breath, she worked up her most martyred-sounding tone and yelled, “I guess I’LL have to GO GET HER THEN,” before shoving me out of the way to reach the slide bottom.

Panicked by the sight of a crazed old lady in hot pants advancing upon her, Bridget shrieked before jumping sideways off the top of the slide into my arms. Irritated by the forced parkour, I twirled her away as the lady let out a frustrated HMPH! and one more “she WASN’T wearing any SHOES!”

“She walked UP the slide, didn’t she!?” I yelled back, wondering why the woman thought trying to cart a hysterical toddler backwards down a spiral slide wouldn’t be dangerous and whether she would later recount her heroically-attempted rescue of the poor kid whose mom wanted to boil her feet to all her friends, who would then pontificate on how social media and participation trophies ruined the Millennials.

Well, we made it to library Storytime, where the kids had a blast and learned all about the Storybook Summer Reading Challenge. If they read five books and log reviews into the website, they get to pick out a free gift book. If they read twenty, they get a SUPER READER medal with their name on it.

This is beyond exciting for my kids and all they can talk about. They want that medal. They’re hungry for it. It has their NAME ON IT.

It will be easy, since I read Brontë a different story every night. We always check out three books for Bidgie to choose from, but she always picks the same one… whatever one she happened to read first. Bonus points if it’s Dr. Seuss though, whom she loves, even though Brontë inexplicably HATES him.

For Brontë, I try to select a bunch of different styles and genres to open up her brain. I usually get a couple of weird ones to make her think. She usually loves them.

But not the one we read last night.

Sendak-nightkitchenIt’s called “In the Night Kitchen,” by Maurice Sendak. It was published in 1970, but looks like something out of the 1920’s: a little boy falls asleep, floats out of his clothes and into  the dough of three chubby bakers who want to cook him because they think he’s milk…

The boy fashions the dough into an airplane, then flies over a huge glass bottle of milk. Jumping inside it, he gets a pitcher to bring back to the bakers, who then sing a happy song about having milk for their cake. The boy makes rooster noises before floating back into his clothes and his bed.

It was mildly disturbing, to tell you the truth. I was curious about Brontë’s take…

Night Kitchen milk
Frankly, this creeped me out too

Me: So, what did you think?

Brontë: That was… weird.

Me: Yeah. I’m sensing you didn’t like it.

Brontë: No, because that little boy was NAKED.

Me: He was.

Brontë: And then he GOT into the MILK. Naked! I do NOT want naked boys in my milk, momma. He could PEE in there!

Me: True.

Brontë: Or even POOP!

Bridget: GROSS!

(The girls laugh hysterically).

Me: Okay, so in your review, you want to say, “I thought the naked boy in the milk was weird because he could pee in there.”

Brontë (very seriously): YES. Or poop. Don’t forget that part. I don’t want to see any more books about naked boys in milk. You write that.

Me: Okay.

And I did. Anyone researching children’s books in Sacramento libraries can now read all about how this one contains disturbing imagery of naked little boys in milk jars who could spontaneously pee and run everybody’s breakfasts. I can’t help wondering if that lady in hot pants will someday come upon it and spontaneously combust.

I also can’t help wondering if there was some deeper, more intricate symbolism in the book that both of us missed. That couldn’t have just been about being baked naked in Oliver Hardy’s cake, right?

Hopefully, Brontë will like tomorrow’s batch much better, but on the other hand, her negative reviews are much more entertaining.










The Chickens Grow Up and Get Their First Apartment

Sorry, were you planning on eating that spider?
“Sorry, were you planning on eating that spider?”

Our cute little chicks have grown into lovely young hens and just moved out of their little light-bulb cage in our garage into their very own outside coop!

They were both so excited. Living in the garage must have been pretty boring, though we decided it was less heart attack-inducing than having four giant cats pounce against their cage all day.

Now they have a much bigger place outside, which must be the chicken equivalent of  getting your first apartment with a roommate.  Now they can peck at bugs all day and sneak out to go dancing at secret chicken nightclubs in the evening.

At least, that’s what I like to pretend they do.

These chickens, brought to our house partly for the amusement of our children, have been held and cuddled since they were puffy little yellow cottonballs, so they are much tamer than your typical poultry. Rosie, the Rhode Island Red, appears to be the leader. Hester, the black-and-white Austrolaurp, goes ballistic whenever she loses sight of her buddy Rosie. It’s funny to think they were chosen at random out of a giant pile of unrelated chicks, but now are total BFF’s.

Bronte likes to carry the chickens around the yard.
Brontë likes to carry the chickens around the yard.

Rosie and Hester follow us around the yard whenever we are outside and we pet them every day. Brontë even nuzzles their chest feathers and carries them around the yard. The chickens are surprisingly indulgent with her aggressive cuddling.

We got chickens to expose our kids to animals, to teach them where food comes from (not always magical bags with cartoon characters), and to establish a fun routine of feeding animals and collecting eggs. Brontë absolutely loves it. She walks out to the yard every morning, holding hands with me, and helps get chicken feed. But she has started taking chicken care a step further…

Bronte provides light entertainment at meals.
My daughter provides light entertainment at meals.

Recently, she has insisted on bringing a book with her. She helps me get chicken feed, helps scoop it into the coop, then points at the chickens and commands them: “EAT, CHICKENS!” After they start pecking, she makes herself comfortable, pulls out her book, and begins showing them the pictures while talking about the story. Since storytime is one of Brontë’s favorite things in the entire world, I figure these daily reading sessions come out of deep toddler love.

Bronte is a firm believer in chicken literacy.
Brontë is a firm believer in chicken literacy.

Sometimes, when Bronte gets tired of making up stories to go with the pictures, she will hand me the book and say, “READ, MOMMA!” I’ll read to them for a bit, just to humor her, but I swear the chickens look like they are paying attention.

All this chicken joy and she hasn’t even seen them lay eggs yet. I try to explain how they will produce eggs for us, but she usually looks at me with the level of toddler concern that tells me she thinks I might be delusional.

She is in for a fun surprise.

My Daughter Wants Dr. Seuss to Shut the Buttercup Up

Hop on pop and bop the cop and chop the mop and...
Hop on pop and bop the cop and chop the mop and…

Brontë seriously hates Dr. Seuss. I didn’t actually realize this was possible.

Partly because storytime is Brontë’s favorite daily ritual. She lights up when it’s time to read before bed, grabbing her Minnie Mouse blanket and scrambling under the covers in happy anticipation. She stares at each and every page with unbroken attention until I announce “the end,” and then usually wants to discuss any illustrations on the back cover. In fact, if she’s being ornery before bed, usually the mere threat of going to sleep “without a story” is enough to instantly snap her back into line.

Until I grabbed some Seussian fare, the only book she hadn’t liked was That’s Not My Bunny, and only because she considered it hateful propaganda. In That’s Not My Bunny, each page has a different illustration of a bunny with a tactile element. For example, one page features a bunny with bumpy paws and reads, ‘That’s not my bunny, his paws are too rough.”  

Brontë, however, absolutely adores bunny rabbits and would indignantly scream, “That IS my bunny!” after every page until she eventually had to grab the book and throw it across the room to stop all the lies.

But I never expected her reject one of the gods of children’s literature. Dr. Seuss is classic. Everyone loves Dr. Seuss. He even has his own award recognizing the most distinguished children’s authors in English literature. When I was pregnant and envisioning all the adorable scenes I would have with my future child, one of them was reading her stuff like Green Eggs and Ham and watching her giggle in delight.

That is not what happened.

I am Sam. Sam I am. (Brontë stares, bewildered, wondering where this is going.)

That Sam-I-am! That Sam I am! I do not like that Sam-I-am! (Brontë’s brows furrow in clear irritation.)

Do you like Green Eggs and ham? I do not like them, Sam-I-am. I do not like Green Eggs and Ham…

“STOP!” Brontë yells.

“Hold on, just stick with it,” I reassure her as she squeezes her Minnie blanket tighter and suspiciously looks at the book. I resume…

Would you like them, Here or There? I would not like them, Here or There. I would not like them Anywhere. I do not like Green Eggs and Ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-am.”

“STOP IT! I NO LIKE IT!” Brontë shouts, making her eyebrows into an angry-V. “Just listen,” I tell her, certain she will get into it as soon as we talk about the mouse…

Would you like them in a house? Would you like them with a mouse?”

“STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT STOP PLEASE STOP!” she screams while grabbing the book and chucking it across the room. She sighs deeply, as though she can finally breathe again.

Hmm, I guess she really means it. Was it the idea of green ham? That is kind of gross, and I can understand a toddler being sensitive to the subject matter. We keep pressuring her to try foods she doesn’t like, and maybe she just didn’t want to see that drama play out once more while she’s trying to relax before bed.

Then again, maybe she’s just in a bad mood tonight. You never know with toddlers… sometimes they just like to reject stuff. It makes them feel like they have some control over the universe.

Wondering if that was the case, I let it go for the night then came back to the table with Horton Hears a Who the following evening:

On the 15th of May, in the jungle of Nool, in the heat of the day, in the cool of the pool…

“NONONONONONONONONONO!” Brontë screamed, looking completely betrayed.

“You don’t like the book?”


Alrighty then. I selected a different book about the adventures of a lost cat and she was happy. She just hates Dr. Seuss.

It’s the incessant rhyming. I swear I saw her flinch every time another word rhymed.

And she has a point. Just imagine you had a coworker that talked the way Dr. Seuss writes… Three or four rhymes would grate your nerves, and after a few minutes, you’d want to punch them in the face (“I don’t like coffee, Chuck-I-am. Not in the office, not in the can. I do not like it with sugar or spice, I do not like it neither hot nor iced.” *CRACK!*)

Dr. Seuss will never sound the same.