There are a lot of books out there written for children that take on “issues” in a very self-conscious, overt way. You know the kind. They’re well-meaning, but in my opinion, are too, dare I say earnest and serious in the way they approach their issues, which run the gamut from peer pressure, bullying, to more serious psychological problems.
Books, especially books written for children, become oh so much more interesting and meaningful when there’s humor present.
Case in point: Crankee Doodle, a new picture book by Tom Angleberger and Cece Bell (Clarion Books, 2013). It’s a hilarious spin-off on the “Yankee Doddle” song and, in my crazy parenting context, a parody of the difficult child.
My older child stole each and every one of Tom Angleberger’s Origami Yoda books from my shelf. He’s pilfered the entire series, while my younger one adores Cece Bell’s Sock Monkey picture books. So I figured that we were in good hands here. Indeed, we were.
When Yankee (or is that Crankee?) Doodle is bored, pony suggests they go to town. But noooooooooooo! Crankee shoots down the idea, and unleashes a torrent of reasons why going to town is the worst idea ever. I’m too tired. It’s too far.There’s nothing good in town. Town is too expensive. Stuff they sell is made badly and just falls apart. And on and on.
Keeping in line with the song, pony suggests they could go to town to buy a new hat, and then a feather to put in said hat that Crankee could call macaroni. In a sequence of rejections that’s reminiscent of Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham, each suggestion is rejected until Crankee finally throws a mongo tantrum:
“Even if I did want something from town–which I do not–town is just too far. I’m exhausted from standing here arguing with you all day! I DO NOT WANT TO GO TO TOWN, I WILL NOT GO TO TOWN, AND I CANNOT GO TO TOWN!”
As parents may well predict, Crankee indeed goes to town and has a wonderful time. Now what was all that fuss and fight about?
I live with a child who is perfectly content to stay at home and puts up a fight when I try to drag him out from one place or another. (Ok, fine. If I announce I’m going to the cookie store, the creatures get their shoes on and bolt out the door, but you know what I’m saying.) There’s frequently the legion of “no”s, foot-dragging, and yes, even the mongo tantrum. But once we get to where we’re going? We’re fine. We usually have a grand time, like Crankee who liked going to town after all. See? It really wasn’t all that bad.
Cece Bell uses bright reds, yellows, and blues for her illustrations. She draws both Crankee and his pony with simple, flowing lines (the eyebrow and nose are a single line), but manages to create a lead character with a wide range of facial expressions that will delight young readers.
Tom Angleberger demonstrates the fun you can have with wordplay. Ever wonder why Yankee Doodle called the feather in his hat macaroni? Sure, but then the train of thought in your head moves along to the next station and you’re thinking about your favorite pasta dish: lasagna. Now that’s fancy. And fun, I might add. We had lots of giggles at that one.
My children loved the silly story, wordplay, and hilarious antics in this book. Parents might appreciate how it makes fun of the stubborn child.
“So what was that tantrum all about?,” I wondered aloud.
“What tantrum?,” the kid will ask me. Completely dumbfounded. Momentary amnesia has hit again. “Oh, that. I was just trying to trick you.”