Friday, March 23, 2012

Wemberly Worried, and other stories from the realm of memories

Standing in our upstairs hallway is a 6-foot bookshelf filled from top to bottom with children's books. Most of the time I don't pay it much attention, because most of the time I don't read children's books.

Which is kind of sad. There was a time when I read to at least one of the kids virtually every night, but now there's not much need. Even the youngest one, six-year-old Jack, has pretty much been reading to himself since he was four, though he and I will still occasionally snuggle in bed and plow through a few books together.

I just went upstairs and took a long look at that bookshelf. I stood there for a good 10 minutes going through the book titles, so many of which are tied to certain memories or to certain times of our life as a family.

There were the Magic Castle Reader books, including my favorite, "A Dragon In A Wagon (A Book About Ways to Travel)." All of the Magic Castle Reader books have that subtitle: "A Book About ______." I used to read "A Dragon In a Wagon" to Elissa, back in the days when I would also put her to bed by making an "Elissa Sundae." This was an elaborate process in which she would lay down and I would cover her with various imaginary ice cream toppings, then finish it off by burying my face in her belly and giving her a first-class zerbert while pretending to eat the sundae. And she would laugh and laugh. I was pretty funny back then.

My other favorite Magic Castle Reader book was "How Many Ways Can You Cut a Pie? (A Book About Math)," in which Squirrel promises to give her friends a portion of the acorn pie she is making if she wins the local pie contest. The idea was to teach fractions, of course. I'm not sure any of the kids or I learned much about fractions, to be honest, but the book always managed to make me hungry for pecan pie.

I also saw "Wemberly Worried" on that bookshelf. You may be familiar with "Wemberly Worried." It's a story about a mouse named Wemberly who worries about everything, including her impending first day of nursery school. We have a couple of worriers in our brood, so any book that gets across the message "it's never as bad as you think it's going to be" is welcome. I remember reading that one to Melanie a few times.

You know what else was there? "Sammy the Seal." I don't know that I ever read "Sammy the Seal" to my kids, but I distinctly remember my mom reading it to me. That was when I was probably 4 or 5. By the time I was in first grade, we had a ritual every night where she would tuck me into bed and I would tell her which book I wanted to read before turning off my light for the night.

She would find the book on my bookshelf, give it to me, remind me to go to bed right after I finished reading it, and leave the room. I would then read the book she gave me, plus another one, and another one, and sometimes one more. And then I would turn out the light and go to sleep. I thought I was pulling one over on her, but now that I look back on it, I'm guessing she had a pretty good idea of what I was doing.

On the bottom shelf I found "The Monster at the End of This Book," a classic Sesame Street story in which Grover spends the whole time pleading with you not to turn the pages because there's a monster at the end of the book. Which of course made the kids want to turn the pages even more. Grover tries gluing down the pages and everything else he can think of to keep you from getting to the end of the book. And when you do get there, the monster turns out to be Grover himself. I think we read that one approximately 57 million times.

I could go on and on. All of us parents can do that when we sift through old books and toys, I'm sure. Like I've said before, I have no real desire to go back to the past, but if anyone is interested in having me read "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" to them, you're welcome to come over any night.


  1. My mom used to read me "Sammy the Seal" back when I was 16 ...

  2. By the way, I hate that you spoiled "The Monster at the End of This Book" for me. I was waiting for the movie. Ruined now.

  3. Aw, I do miss those days! One of our favorites was Dr. Suess' One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. "Oh dear, oh dear, I cannot hear. Will you please come over near? Will you please look in my ear?" Some how I was always able to find the TV remote in my daughter's ear.

  4. Jim: Don't worry, if you buy the DVD, they have several alternate endings that will blow you away.

    Kelly: Yeah, I should have included some Cat in the Hat here. And isn't it funny how amazing they think you are when you pull tricks like that? Jared STILL doesn't understand how the coin gets in its ear...