I adore reading to my kid. We read at least two picture books a day—usually more. As an aspiring children’s book author, I know how much goes into crafting and telling a story in just the right way. I also know how painful the process can be to read the same book over and over again.
When my little one says, “Read it again?” for the millionth time, I try to keep myself from dying of boredom by imagining the stuff that’s not on the page. I have come to the conclusion that—quite often—the adults in picture books are dummies.
Corduroy by Don Freeman
“Corduroy is a bear who lives in the toy department of a big store.” He also sits next to a very creepy clown and a bunny with red eyes. I don’t know how he survived long enough to lose that button. Anyway, he does survive, and he goes on an adventure through the store to find the missing button. During this process, he falls into a floor lamp and makes quite a bit of noise.
The night watchman (who wears a very stylish man-bag) rushes down the escalator to investigate this disturbance. There is a missing button on one of the mattresses, in addition to the fallen lamp, and who knows what other destruction. But when the guard sees Corduroy, he simply tucks the bear under his arm to return him to his rightful place next to aforementioned scary rabbit and creepy clown—then goes about the rest of his night.
- The guard is really bad at his job. The cuteness of Corduroy makes him forget all about the possible intruder who probably put the bear there to distract him. (He questions how the bear got up there, but only in a very folksy way.)
- He believes that stuffed animals can talk, walk, and look for buttons. And he doesn’t seem to think that Corduroy should be responsible for the damages he caused.
In either case, we should see him being escorted out of the building in the background of one of the later illustrations. Night watchman? You’re fired.
Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
This story depicts another night watchman who should be very, very fired. Joe has obviously worked at the zoo for far too long. Or maybe he just needs to move further away. That gorilla steals his keys from what looks like a pretty secure spot on Joe’s belt loop, and Joe has no idea. He doesn’t hear any of the cages open behind him or notice that there are humongous creatures (including an elephant, a giraffe, and a lion) walking behind him. He doesn’t even notice the gorilla in his own bed.
His wife is smarter, but not by much. She treks back to the zoo and gets all the animals back where they’re supposed to go, but the gorilla and the mouse (and his disgusting banana peel) end up back in bed with Joe and the missus.
I do like Joe, though. It’s nice that he says good night to all the animals.
Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman
The mother bird feels her egg start to move and then leaves. She appears to be a single mother—and that’s hard—but maybe she should have thought about food beforehand? Or could she maybe wait another second until the baby comes out to tell him, “Hey, I’m going to go get some food. WAIT HERE!”?!
Thank goodness for that excavator.
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
This mother leaves kids that couldn’t be more than seven years old alone in the house together…ALL DAY?!!! If that happened today, someone would be calling the cops. People can’t even let their kids walk a block to the park without someone complaining. And I guess this is why. CATS IN THE HATS. They’re apparently everywhere.
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems
A bus driver just leaves his bus, and we’re expected to control what a pigeon does! It’s a good thing my toddler really likes to say no. Otherwise…
(Willems also gives us a very stupid dad in Knuffle Bunny, FYI.)
I adore all of these books. I think they’re brilliant. To kids, adults are dummies sometimes, so it makes sense that they would be idiots in children’s books.
I’m sure I’ve only just scratched the surface here. We’re only in early picture books—I’m sure we’ve got a lot of clueless grown-ups yet to meet. What are your favorites? Let me know in the comments!