#7 The Belly Button Book by Sandra Boynton

I don’t know if you guys are aware, but we all have belly buttons. Some of them are guuud, and some of them are NOT so good. Personally, I will always remember cutting Colin’s umbilical cord being fully aware of the fact that I would be in full control of his status as an innie or outie (I was not aware of any of these things – I only cared about helping him look LESS like the alien from the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull).

ANYWAY…

The Belly Button book is about how we all have belly buttons. Except it’s not, because human’s don’t exist in this book, only hippopotamuses, but it’s OK because they have belly buttons and they represent humanity. Hippos love belly buttons, BTW, and they take them to the beach and sing songs about them. 

That is all.

Oh, one hippo calls his belly button a “Bee Bo”

And one more thing…hippos don’t get to see their belly buttons in the winter because it gets too cold (It does not get to cold where hippos live, which is in Africa) and they have to layer correctly in order to keep warm. WHAT A SAD, BLEAK RAGNORAKIAN EXISTENCE!

Listen, I’m not trying to hate, but really guys? 

Crude drawings of hippos + belly buttons = Successful Book?

No, David Copperfield. No, thank you.

Also, I’m not sure if Ms. Boynton is aware, but hippopotamuses are considered to be one of the most aggressive and dangerous animals in Africa.

 

They are killing each other; youre next.

They are killing each other; you're next.

 

I would like to ask the author why her discussion of hippo activities at the beach does not include ATTACKING HUMANS????

HE JUST ATE THAT.

My general distrust of hippos also comes from their involvement with Congo.

I know he’s dead, but Michael Crichton is the worst, guys.

Published in: on December 31, 2008 at 3:56 am  Comments (2)  
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#5 A Smidgeon of Pigeon: The Pigeon Has Feelings, Too!

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Hey that’s me!

The Pigeon Has Feelings, Too! is the appropriately lengthened all too brief story of a Bus Driver’s request for the Pigeon to show us her happy face, which she denies. Such a brash question causes our heroine to fly into anger followed by sadness. The Bus Driver then compromises, telling the Pigeon that she does not have to show the world what it looks like when she is happy. Tasting sweet victory, the Pigeon explodes in pure orgastic (Fitzgerald uses it, read the Great Gatsby) joy, only to realize far too late that she has been bamboozled.

The End.

And by the way, you don’t even have to read the book now, because that summary has even MORE words than Willems’ text.The book is a part of the “Smidgen of Pigeon” series, which is basically a few board books consisting of only a few pages. The brevity is the book’s weakness. GIVE US WHAT WE WANT MO – MORE PIGEON!

Ultimately the brevity of the book (it’s a Board Book to Infants, Tyler) is its hindrance. I point to the immaculately paced Pigeon Wants a Puppy, where Pigeon’s attitude and sass are allowed to breathe; see, that’s the thing about irony – it gets better as it grows thicker. Unfortunately, I have to conclude that some EVIL children’s book publisher (probably a subsidiary of Scribner’s) offered Mr. Willems an offer he couldn’t refuse so that he could continue doing RADIO CARTOONS.

This blog has already discussed how Mo Willems is not only IRONIC, but also a great basketball player. Some critics have pointed out how his stats are down from last year:

17.2 PPG, 6.3 APG, 3.5 RPG  vs.  16.2 PPG, 4.1 APG, 3.3 RPG

But you have to take into account the fact that the best player on Willems’ team last year was Michael Redd who (while extremely valuable) was the 15th guy on a 12 man US Olympic Team. Willems now gets to play with the guy who was THE BEST player on that team.

By the way, who knew that DELONTE WEST would turn into a competent basketball player??? I never thought I’d say this, but it seems that LeBron James is actually an inspiring teammate; take a look at West’s stat line. As a disappointed Wizards fan, I watched him simply be a GREAT second banana in last year’s annual first round exit. 

And speaking of LeBron, apparently all he wanted for Christmas was back-scratcher. Yeah, dude is so down to Earf (Lebron James is the opposite of down to Earth).

BUT, I must admit that my favorite commercial of 2008 is easily:

First Hova and now Weezy? What about Yeezy?

Oh yeah, this is a blog about CHILDREN’S BOOKS.

Anyway, I’m growing a little worried about Pigeon. Her manic states simply wreak of bipolar disorder. I ask the public, she PIGEON be the kind of person our children should be reading about?

Sorry for the brief post, but I can’t write much about a book with only 6 pages.

GET TO WORK, MO WILLEMS.

Published in: on December 30, 2008 at 6:24 am  Comments (1)  
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Don’t Touch That: Dane Cook

There is a lot of culture out there. Not all of it is good. In fact, most of it is terrible. “Don’t Touch That” is Tyler’s mission to make you (the reader) aware of certain aspects, trends, and especially people from which you should hide your children if only for the future.

You would think that I would warn you about Dane Cook for any one of several obvious reasons. His humor is bracingly adult (his humor is infantile); his films exist outside the 0-12 demographic; his language leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination. I could easily write a post about keeping Dane Cook away from your kids for any of these reasons, but I feel as if there is really only one reason your children should not meet DC… 

He is not funny.

 

Whoops, I like penguins.

Whoops, I like penguins.

Not. Funny. 

Listen, I’m not trying to judge here; if you watch his stand up specials while slapping your knee and you were first in line for “Good Luck Chuck,” “My Best Friend’s Girl,” and “Employee of the Month” that’s fine (that is not fine – you should not be doing these things). Here’s the thing, your sense of humor probably cannot be saved – it’s most likely ruined. But your children still have a shot. Anyway, how is Dane Cook not funny? Oh let me count the reasons: 

1. I’m not even sure Dane Cook is a comedian. Why? He does not tell jokes. There are no set-ups followed by punch lines in his act. Only gyrations and terrible girlfriend-voices followed by screaming and yelling.

2. “BROOOOOOOOOOOOOO” is not funny. 

3. I watched the special “Vicious Circle” the other night to try and understand why people find him funny (I do these things on a Friday night for you, that’s how much I care). Now I have a pretty high tolerance for pain (don’t even ask how many times I’ve actually sat through a Jeff Dunham special – and we’ll be dealing with him soon) but an hour into the special I noticed that there was still another HOUR AND A HALF of his “comedy.” Here’s a list of things Mr. Cook makes jokes about:

            -Lying is Fun and how to lie.

            -Being stuck in a bad relationship sucks

            -What will happen when DC goes to heaven?

            -Why a bro has to cry sometimes.

            -Naming his son Optimus Prime would be cool.

Just from those premises does that even sound REMOTELY funny? Apparently yes. BECAUSE “VICIOUS CIRICLE” HAS SOLD 2 MILLION CDs. That means there are literally MILLIONS  of people in this country who find Dane Cook so funny that he bears repeat listens. 

5. When asked about his comedic style, Dane Cook has this to say:

“I wanted to create a stage persona for myself that allowed me to really speak about anything I want… So I can be a storyteller, I can be jokey, I can be corny, I can be a little vulgar, I can be a lot vulgar. And I’m not afraid to go anywhere to get the point of the joke across, even if I have to just blabber like an idiot until it becomes apparent that I’m telling a joke and that the audience should laugh.”

Listen, Dane, if you have to make it apparent to your audience that you are telling a joke, then that means that you are NOT GOOD AT TELLING JOKES.

Ultimately, the biggest problem I have with Dane Cook’s success is that it is so unmerited (I’m really not trying to hate). We’ll be talking about the Blue Collar guys eventually, but at least they appear to try hard at crafting a joke via observation + set-up + punch line. Say what you will about Larry the Cable Guy’s content (oh, and I will say a lot), but at least he understands the formula. Dane Cook’s career is solely based on marketing and hype (oh and also THEFT). He’s the comedy version of Vampire Weekend.

Guys, listen, he created a new way to flick people off. Is that really even necessary? Is Dane Cook even necessary?

So, in summation: Dane Cook is definitely the worst and any card out of either deck in Apples to Apples is funnier than he could ever hope to be if he fell into a funny ocean on a planet of hilarity. As of right now, he is definitely the Twilight of Comedy.

Hi, we are collectively Dane Cook. BTW, we cannot act either.

Hi, we are collectively Dane Cook. BTW, we cannot act either.

Published in: on December 1, 2008 at 6:22 pm  Comments (1)  
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#5 Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne Chapter 1: in which we are introduced to Winnie-the-Pooh and some bees, and the stories begin

Note: Jen and I decided to decorate Colin’s room with a “Classic Winnie the Pooh Theme” complete with A.A. Milne’s original stories. While I will not rigorously read to Colin the entire collection in one sitting, I will return to these texts from time to time.

The opening chapter (which is really a short tale) introduces the reader to Christopher Robin, his bear Winnie the Pooh, and the narrator who is assumed to be the father of the boy. One day, WtP is out walking in the Hundred Acre Wood and he comes across a tree. At the top of this tree are bees and therefore a beehive and therefore honey  (the driving mechanism of the story – the conch shell if you will). WtP climbs to the top only to find that the last branch collapses underneath his weight and he falls to the earth. Refusing to be deterred, Pooh goes to Christopher Robin who lives behind a door in a tree (what?) where he procures a blue balloon. He then cakes himself in black mud (isn’t that called oil?) so that he might appear to be a little black rain cloud. Unfortunately the bees are not fooled and WtP finds that being suspended some 50 feet up in the air to be quite terrifying so he asks Christopher Robin to shoot the balloon with his gun (again, what?). The boy is successful in hitting the balloon, and the story ends and then the real Christopher Robin an WtP take a bath.

End of Chapter/Story.

Observations:

1. An interesting use of framing by Milne in the book so far since it begins with Christopher Robin asking his father to tell him a story about Winnie the Pooh, because he (the bear) likes hearing stories about himself. CR also interjects at different points in the story adding commentary when necessary.

2. British colloquialisms are HILARIOUS. Such as WtP’s revelation that “These are the wrong sort of bees,” and “You didn’t exactly miss…but you missed the balloon.”

3. Why does Christopher Robin’s father allow his son to SHOOT A GUN in this story???

4. Doesn’t Christopher Robin know that bears are godless killing machines?!?!?!

5. Ultimately, WtP seems to be another story (or set of stories) that deal with the world of child. Christopher Robin has a specific view of the way things are (his explanation for WtP’s name) and there’s nothing anyone can tell him otherwise. After all, Winnie-the-Pooh told him so.

While this line does not occur in this story, I certainly can’t wait to get to it:

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?””

Published in: on November 29, 2008 at 4:40 am  Leave a Comment  

#3 The Pigeon Wants a Puppy by Mo Willems

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The Pigeon Wants a Puppy! is a simple story about a pigeon (with a fashionable collar, not popped) who wants a puppy. While this bird is certainly likable and entertaining, she is also unfortunately self-centered and a little too fierce for her own good (I am assuming gender based on the plethora of hearts in the text and the bird’s penchant for puppies). After we meet the pigeon, she immediately introduces us to the fact that she has always wanted a puppy…at least since Tuesday. The pigeon argues that she’ll water the puppy once a month and reveals that she is aware that puppies also need a lot of sunshine. The pigeon then suspects that the audience is not taking her seriously; she assumes that we are against her desire to take a piggyback ride on her puppy, and then accuses the audience of not being apart of the real America (hey guys! that’s called topical humor!). Tension builds as a “woof” grows louder and louder, causing fear and distress in our heroine. The pigeon is then confronted with the thing that she wants most and the audience realizes that this pigeon is a normal sized bird and not a giant (my bad!). Fortunately no one gets hurt, and the pigeon learns her lesson, concluding that a Walrus would suit her much better. The End.

Wait…what?

Exactly.

Seriously.

Observations:

1. Mo Willems’ name sounds a lot like the shooting guard of the Milwaukee Bucks. 

12.5 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 4.5 APG

Career Stats for the Author: 12.5 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 4.5 APG

That’s a pretty poor pseudonym there Mo Williams.

2. This actually is Mo Willems:

Hmmmm…I wonder who he looks like…hmmm…hmmm…hmmm

3. It seems that Mo Willems is not a real person, but rather a composite of a great name and a great image. Oh, he’s also really funny.

4. There’s really no point to TPWAP; it’s ironic and sardonic and every other hip, $5 word I can think of that would also describe videogum. Take a look at this:

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4. Mo Willems is the winner of the Caldecott Medal (the Pulitzer of Children’s Books…I think). He also lived in Brooklyn and now records radio cartoons for NPR’s All Things Considered. I’m just going to let that sentence sink in for a second. Radio. Cartoons. Radio Cartoons. Cartoons, Radio.

Ultimately, this is a book written for the emerging hipster/new parent demographic; it is safe for any age and is more ironic than an Arj Barker joke. That means I loved it.

Radio Cartoons?

Published in: on November 28, 2008 at 4:01 am  Comments (2)  
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#2 – Chapter 9 from the Gospel of John

Jen (my wife) needed a little extra time to sleep this morning, so I threw a fresh onesie (onesy?) on Colin and we headed downstairs to hang out. He settled down and we enjoyed a quiet morning together; it’s actually one of my favorite times of the year – the last couple days before a big holiday. I’m making lists of things to clean, things to fix, food to purchase – bursting with anticipation for Thursday. Anyway, to begin our morning we read from the Gospel of John this morning, chapter 9.

This section of John’s account is better known as the healing of a man who had been blind since birth. Jesus spits into the dirt and then cakes the man’s eyes with mud. He then tells this man to wash his eyes at Siloam, and behold! he is then able to see. The rest of the story is then about the interrogation of this man and his parents by the Pharisees with the eventual explanation from Christ.

Observations:

1. This story is one of many to appear only in John’s gospel. It should be noted that John’s gospel is written much later than Luke’s writings (the Gospel of Luke and Acts) and even possibly some of Paul’s letters, so John could be writing his account with an awareness of things that have happened among the apostles and the early church, especially in the development of early Christian theology.

2. John is presenting what seems to be his version* of a standard Gospel/Acts story, specifically the person who has been afflicted with some debilitation (disease, disability, demon possession) who is then healed followed by a curious response from the crowd. John 9 while not exactly aping, certainly echoes Mark 5 (the demon possessed man in Gerasa) or Acts 3 (Peter healing a disabled beggar). 

3. In each story, the writer is sure to point out the crowd’s reaction, specifically that they recognize not only who the healed person was, but also that he has been changed. I’ll let you create your own sermon from that observation.

4. The actions of Jesus strangely echo the creation story; the physical and symbolic healing begins by the combination of dirt (the earth) and God (John 9:6). The Genesis account describes how God created man from dirt and then breathed life into him (Genesis 2:7). While John’s story is perhaps a little bit more profane with the images of spit and mud (the sacred and the propane, right Little Carmine?), it still carries the same essence. Human beings are this combination of earth and spirit, not exclusively one or the other…

I think it should be said that Colin did cry a little bit during last night’s reading of The Cat in the Hat, yet was quiet and serene while I read this morning. Coincidence? Probably. Yes.

*When I say version, I’m working within the context of Narrative Criticism, which is the idea of a Gospel writer framing and “typing” the stories of Jesus in order to convey the particular story that he is writing. This accounts for the different placement of certain stories in the Gospels (for example: the previously mentioned scene at Gerasa occurs within the same specific contexts of Matthew 8, Mark 5, and Luke 8, but the greater context can be much different as Matthew inserts different accounts amidst Mark and Luke’s versions of the story and even places the event at a seemingly different location (Gadara). Since we know each Gospel writer was portraying a different aspect or at least different characteristics of Christ, then we can assume that they could mold the “biography” to fit these specific theme(s). This does not mean that these accounts are falsified or fictional, but rather that they represent a different way of viewing history. Instead of our Western linear line of thought, the Ancient Near East viewed history much more as a narrative, and the Gospels reflect the narrative biographies of other historical figures of that day.

Published in: on November 25, 2008 at 3:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Book #1 – The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat is the story about two children, Sally and her older brother (the nameless narrator), who are stuck at home on a rainy day. All of a sudden, a seemingly adult male cat emerges and introduces utter chaos to the house. Also, there is a goldfish who is able to talk and reasons that this cat in a hat should not be in this house creating such chaos. Eventually, the Cat in the Hat realizes that all of this fun has indeed created a path of obvious destruction. But don’t worry, he has a machine that is able to clean an entire house in mere seconds before the mother of Sally and her brother returns home. Phew!

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Colin prefers to read using his peripheral vision.

Observations:

1.) Why are these children left home alone? Sally cannot be older than 5 or 6 and the narrator cannot be older than 10. While level of maturity and responsibility should be included in deciding when a child can be put in charge of younger siblings, I have never seen any law that allows for any person younger than 12 to be put in charge of others for an extended period of time. 

2.) It should be noted that a father does not seem to be in the lives of this family. The narrator points out that the kite being flown by either Thing One or Thing Two hits the head of “mother’s bed” (p. 41). It should also be observed that Seuss drew what seems to be a single bed (p. 42). 

3.) Seuss said that he was inspired to write TCITH in response to the plethora of primers and books that taught children by means of well-behaved, abnormally courteous, and strangely clean children. So while many books tend to teach the skills of reading through safe and approved activities (see: Fun with Dick and Jane). So Seuss is writing in order to teach children how to read not through system and order, but through chaos.

Ultimately, TCITH is a story about responsible childhood independence. It is the story about the anarchy of imagination (notice that the Cat and the fish only exist in the absence of Sally and the narrator’s mother). It is a story of children left to their own wits and devices; of harnessing the fantasies of the mind. You could even see it as a story of two natures, reason and disorder and perhaps a place for each in the life of a child.

I think my favorite part of the story is the last page; the mother asks the two children what occurred during her egregious absence, and the narrator then opens up to his audience, inquiring what all the little boys and girls of the world would do in his situation. So in the end Seuss has created a story about the borders between adults and children, about how a mother could never understand what just happened. It is a story for every child who has tried to explain their world to an adult who only shakes their head and laughs.

Also, the wonderful Alec Baldwin starred in the movie adaptation!

Published in: on November 25, 2008 at 6:32 am  Comments (2)  
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a brave new world

Studies show that reading aloud is perhaps the most important thing that parents can do for their children. It establishes a bond between parent and child, indirectly teaches even a newborn the fundamentals of reading, and lays the groundwork for a lifetime love of reading and education. Reading also builds a child’s vocabulary, stimulates his or her imagination, and improves communication skills. In fact, studies show that simply reading together is not just as good, but superior to educational videos such as Baby Einstein. Even the almighty Sesame street is simply not as good.   

the enemy.

the enemy.

But what’s the point of all of this information?

My son, Colin James Robinson, was born on Monday November 17th, 2008.  

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Among the many things I want to pass on to him (faith, love, hope, etc.), I want to establish a love for reading and learning. So it is my goal to read aloud to my son at least 5,000 stories before the age of 5. This averages to about 3 individual readings (books, chapters, stories) a day. First a few ground rules:

1.) Repeats are allowed (especially if Colin develops a penchant for a specific story or author)

2.) While children’s stories will dominate this blog, I reserve the right to include readings from the classics (Melville, Fitzgerald, Salinger, etc.) as well as poetry and even stories from the Bible.

3.) Tyler is the boss.

Published in: on November 25, 2008 at 5:45 am  Leave a Comment  

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Published in: on November 25, 2008 at 4:33 am  Comments (1)