Paddington at the Palace

last night’s bedtime book: Paddington at the Palace, by Michael Bond. Let’s get the good out of the way first: the Paddington books are excellent children’s books. R.W. Alley’s illustrations in this series are excellent. Paddington the Bear is a cute character without being cloying or manufactured, and there’s at least one funny thing for adults in each of them I’ve read. For example, Paddington being mistaken for a busby is a good gag whether you’re 2 or 32, especially compared to what passes for humour in the average children’s book.

Now for the bad points of the book. The action in the volume turns when a mysterious figure within the palace notices Paddington’s failure to see the changing of the guard because he was stuck behind everyone in the crowd. An assistant is dispatched to open the grounds to Paddington in what is obviously a case of special treatment. Really, the only reason Paddington is allowed the access he gets is because someone notices he’s a cute little bear; there’s no value in that as a lesson.

But here’s the bigger issue: as might be anticipated this book is about a visit to Buckingham Palace, and I am sorry to report that neither main character is properly dismissive of the legitimacy of the monarchy. As I’m sure you’ll agree, the royals are wastes of perfectly good internal organs who ought to return all their earthly possessions to the people and get real jobs. It’s not as bad as ooh-ing and aah-ing at the Vatican would be, given the horrible and asinine predilections of the Catholic church, but come on–Prince Harry wore a Nazi uniform to a fancy dress party. These people are assholes, soup to nuts. As a possible mitigating factor, it might be too early for the target audience of this book to grasp the derision with which the figureheads of British state should be regarded.

Frankly, given this book’s shortcomings, it is my least favourite Paddington story in the seven books Alex has. As a reflection of the strengths of the series, though, it still rates three and a half Pochaccos (on the JesusH rating scale of zero to five Pochaccos).

The Sailor Dog

last night’s bedtime book: The Sailor Dog, by Margaret Wise Brown, of Goodnight Moon (and Mister Dog) fame. The hero of this book is Scuppers, the Sailor Dog, who spends the book sailing, wishing to sail, sailing, shipwrecked, sailing, provisioning, and sailing again. Scuppers is sailing at least half the length of the book. His single-minded pursuit of what he plainly considers his life’s work is an excellent reminder for all of us who tend to spend too much of our precious time doing random bullshit we don’t want to be doing.

This is a better book than Mister Dog, even without considering the 88 word sentence near the end that is a fun challenge for those of us who are reading the material out loud to read in one breath. However, Garth Williams’ illustrations aren’t as clever or refined overall as they are in Mister Dog, and every time I read the book I’m unhappy that the Sailor Dog finds a chimney’s worth of red bricks on the island he shipwrecks on.

On the last page of the book, Brown wrote a song for Sailor Dog, which I came up with a simple tune for sometime in the first dozen times I read the book to Alex. Now when he chooses this book I always ask him if he wants me to sing the song, and he always says no. I’m sure he’s not saying anything about my singing voice.

Two and a half Pochaccos (on the JesusH rating scale of zero to five Pochaccos).

Mister Dog

last night’s bedtime book: Mister Dog, by Margaret Wise Brown, of Goodnight Moon fame. “Once upon a time there was a funny dog named Crispin’s Crispian. He was named Crispin’s Crispian because he belonged to himself.” The book starts with that premise and makes less and less sense as what passes for a story develops. Brown had apparently begun the long slide into full-blown dementia before she wrote this.

There’s a great picture of a rabbit smoking Mister Dog’s corncob pipe, though.

An amazon reviewer mentions that they began reading this book to their son when he was about 5. Your kid should be reading this book by himself in about ten seconds by the time they’re five, people. Get with it.

Two Pochaccos, mostly for Garth Williams’ illustrations.