If you’re like me, some of the best moments you spent with your children when they were little were at the end of the day when they were sitting still on your lap, moist and warm and sweet smelling from their bath, the sleepiness beginning to set in and replace the frenzied behavior that had inhabited their three foot tall bodies for much of the day — and the two of you were sharing a favorite picture book.
I love picture books. I always have, even as an adult.
Children’s picture books were the instigating reason I didn’t become the next Mary Hart. True story.
I began reading picture books to both of my girls in utero.
As in, about 12 days in utero.
My love of board books and picture books carried on for years after they were both too old for them, and like the tubs of favorite stuffed animals and creepy-eyed dolls I cannot get rid of, my basement is brimming with boxes of children’s books.
But just like the ugly stuffed animals that were won at the carnival or the animatronic walking dog that did flips on the TV but never could stick its landing once it resided in our house, many of the books we’ve purchased through the years have been donated.
Donated because they were stupid as hell.
But then there are the books that my kids loved and wanted read and re-read every freakin’ night.
Books that were stupid as hell.
Books that I would rather shoot myself in the groin than have to read aloud again.
You know the ones. (I’m looking at you, Berenstain Bear family.)
But we read them.
Because there’s no price on a still, moist, warm and sweet smelling child.
My co-author and friend Nicole — who writes the hilarious Ninja Mom Blog as well as does terrifically hilarious things like this for NickMom — has a series on her blog called the “Character Assassination Carousel.” The idea is to take a picture book, preferably one you think is stupid as hell but one that your kids love and beg you to read until you are driven to drink (more than usual) — and to skewer the hell out of it like you want to do when you’re reading it to your sweet child.
After over 18 years of being a parent, I have a lot of books like these in my basement, so when Nicole invited me to take a spin on the Character Assassination Carousel, I jumped on board.
And I knew immediately the book I’d assassinate.
Hop on, folks, and grab a horse. I hear the calliope music starting.
Roses Are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink by Diane deGroat
This book is but one in a series of books about an oddly mixed bag of animals led by Gilbert, an unidentifiable, spectacled, spiky-haired rodent of some sort who has curiously horse-shaped ears.
The other books are similarly titled – and just as painful. I know because not only do I still own them all, but have read every one of them eleventy-seven times each.
Gilbert’s other friends include a porcupine, a rabbit, a beaver and a raccoon.
Obviously it’s a desegregated school.
The teacher is a giant bird, aptly named Mrs. Byrd (don’t let the clever spelling fool you. She’s a giant bird).
This Valentine edition begins with Gilbert tackling the assignment of writing “nice Valentine poems” to all 15 members in his class because Mrs. Byrd told them that Valentine’s Day is all about “liking each other.”
With all due respect, Mrs. Byrd, I’m going to disagree.
In my experience, Valentine’s Day is all about feeling inadequate and slightly depressed about your life and your future because every other girl in the entire high school gets heart shaped boxes of chocolate and stuffed animals from their boyfriends or (even better) secret admirers and you try to smile and seem like it’s No Big Deal that the only candy you received came from your mom in an attempt to make up for the fact that you’re a loser without a date.
I fear I’ve said too much.
Back to the story.
So Gilbert starts writing poems.
I’m not sure what grade this menagerie is supposed to be in, but I’m gonna assume about third grade because of the fact that they can write poetry. At any rate, Gilbert writes a poem for Patty, who is “silly” and makes him feel silly, too.
Next up is Frank’s card, who despite being a giver gets this lame-ass poem.
The next paragraph is where this story loses me, as it quickly turns into A BIG, FAT LIE.
Any parent who has ever — EVER — had to sit with their grade school child as they simply sign their names to Valentines — forget the task of writing FIFTEEN ORIGINAL POEMS — knows that not only does the child NOT think it’s fun but has to practically be tied to the chair and threatened with the loss of every screen until the end of time just to get through five of them a night.
But then things start to get a little bit more real.
Because it seems that Gilbert doesn’t feel like being so nice to Margaret and Lewis.
That bitch Margaret once made fun of his glasses, and Lewis tweaked his nose.
Did you hear me? LEWIS TWEAKED HIS EFFIN’ NOSE.
So Gilbert decides to write some not-so-nice poems.
Gilbert decides to write what he really thinks about Lewis on Lewis’ Valentine.
Gilbert thinks it’s funny, but he’s afraid Lewis will not and might even TWEAK HIS FRICKIN’ NOSE AGAIN.
God dammed Lewis.
So Gilbert signs the card, “Margaret.”
And for that glasses-thief Margaret, he writes this:
He signs it “Lewis.”
Shit’s about to get real.
When Gilbert opens all his cards at the class party, he’s pleased to get nice poems from his friends.
EVEN THAT A-HOLE LEWIS AND THAT HAG MARGARET.
HOLD THE EFF UP.
(Despite the fact that the poems are totally backhanded compliments) Gilbert is happily surprised that Lewis and Margaret LIKE him!
In other news, Gilbert is a total idiot and has no self-respect.
But wait. What’s this?
Margaret doesn’t seem so happy with one of her Valentines.
Seems Lewis had received a nasty Valentine as well.
Lewis and Margaret have a throw down.
Tongues are stuck out at each other.
Bad names are called.
There’s an incident of pushing.
Only one person who can restore order and get to the bottom of this.
Later that day, Margaret notices that she has two Valentines from Lewis, and does not have one from Gilbert.
Lewis notices he has two Valentines from Margaret, but not one from Gilbert.
Uh – oh.
Gilbert becomes a pariah.
No one wants to sit by him at lunch.
NOT EVEN THE CAT, who walks the shit right by him.
Gilbert continues to be shunned at recess, and wishes he’d written backwards compliments to Margaret and Lewis instead of the nasty ones.
Roses are red
You have a big nose
It’s cool how much snot you get out
When you give it a blow.
You sometimes smell like B.O.
But that is O.K.
Because whenever you need a partner for dodgeball
I know I’ll get to play.
Nah, I’m making that up. But that’s the direction I wish the story would’ve taken.
But Margaret and Lewis eventually apologize for the glasses stealing and the nose tweaking and Gilbert ends up making them new Valentines.
This one for Lewis.
Which still isn’t really a nice poem, just an apology, but I suppose I’m splitting hairs.
And Margaret gets this piece of crap:
WTF? Let’s hope she doesn’t eat tuna.
And of course, the new poems fix everything and all the animals have a party and a swell time eating the cookies Gilbert’s mother made.
Like that’d happen.
Everyone knows whatever you bring to a school party has to be store bought.
Check out last week’s assassin, another of my co-authors Lynn, who blogs at The Nomad Mom Diary.
Up next will be Outmanned Mommy.
And make sure to check out the long list of other picture books that have been skewered right here. (The Berenstain Bears ones are classic!)
Thanks for letting me play, Nicole!
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