Almost the only reason I log in to Facebook anymore (other than to publish posts on my page) is to check out the various local moms’ groups I am part of. From one such group, came a recommendation that lodged itself in my mind - books by Robert Munsch - although the context in which these were recommended has long slipped from memory.
Completely clueless about this reputed American-born Canadian author, I requested a bunch of books written by him. Of these, Look at Me! and So Much Snow! were the first to become available. Both are illustrated by France-born Canadian, Michael Martchenko. And turns out Munsch and Martchenko have collaborated on [two dozen] or so books. Hugs by this author-illustrator duo is yet another book that we’ve read.
Look at Me!, dedicated to a Madison Snow, is the quirky tale of a girl named Madison who asks a face painter to paint a “really real” rose on her cheek. And her request is fulfilled. Only, after a while, Madison realises she now has two roses, one on each cheek, and then three, and then four, and then twenty-four, all on long stems trailing on her shoulders and down her arms with even a leaf that seems to have sprouted out of her ear. The doctor and folks at the garden store are of no help to Madison, who now has to come up with an ingenious plan to get the rose bush out of her skin an on to a more natural habitat.
So Much Snow!, dedicated to a Jasmine Moran, is the tale of a girl named Jasmine who insists on going to school on a snow day, because it is pizza day at school. En route, it snows so hard she is quickly buried in snow until only the top of her hat is visible. The caretaker of the school, near where she is buried, rescues her and drags a frozen, ice-encased Jasmine into the nurse’s office, where different members of the staff employ blankets and hot chocolate to un-freeze her, but in vain. It takes an unlikely trick to free Jasmine, who is obviously the only child at school on that snow day but pizza day.
Hugs, dedicated to Thea and Tate Hedemann, is the tale of … you guessed it … a girl named Thea, who is mad at her mom, and runs away from home with her little brother Tate in tow. On the way, Tate demands a hug. Thea hugs him, but Tate decides it isn’t the ‘right kind of hug’. Thea takes Tate to a number of creatures and asks them to hug her little brother. A snail gives him a slimy hug, a skunk gives him a stinky hug, a porcupine gives him a poky, needle-y hug, and a gorilla gives him a ‘too hard’ hug. Finally, there’s only one place to which Thea can take Tate so that he can get just the right kind of hug.
The first thing that struck me about all these books is the names of the protagonists and the people the books are dedicated to. Wikipedia claims that Munsch concocts his stories in front of audiences and bases the characters on, and dedicates his tales to, the children to whom he first narrated the stories! What a novel way of composing stories for children!
This particularly struck a chord with me because over and over again, I find that adults are completely unsuitable for reviewing or commenting on children’s books. The way we perceive the stories, the things that stand out to us, are almost always different than the things that matter to the little ones the story is being read to. If we can keep our opinions to ourselves, we will clearly see those of our children.
This was especially true in the case of these three Munsch-Martchenko stories. As much as I loved and laughed during the readings of these stories, D did not take to them at all. He read each of the three books maybe twice or thrice, and promptly put them aside to be returned to the library. I tried asking him a couple of times what he didn’t like about the books. He didn’t have an answer, or at least he didn’t give me one. “Give back to the library,” was his stock answer. Well, at least he has enough clarity of mind to decide and to stick to his decision!