Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Round of 32 Day 1 (Tournament of Children's Books)

On Monday we set the field. Today, the Tournament of Children's Books begins with first round match-ups in the Mother Goose and Little Golden Books regions. Here's the field:

Click here for a zoomable version.

Let's get started!

Mother Goose Region

(1) The Very Hungry Caterpillar defeats (8) Teddy’s House
The Very Hungry Caterpillar chews right through Teddy’s House in this first round blowout. My son absolutely loves Teddy’s House…when he can find it. Teddy’s House comes with a little stuffed bear (the eponymous Teddy) that fits inside the book. Each page of the book is a different room in Teddy’s house and has text describing items in each room. And that’s it. No plot. No story. Just here’s Teddy’s Bathroom. Here’s Teddy’s toilet. Here’s Teddy’s toothbrush. After 2700 or so times reading this book (my son loves to have Mommy or Daddy read this over and over) the mere sight of Teddy’s House puts my brain into sheer agony, so in a very mature response my wife and I hide Teddy’s House. A recent game of asking my son questions like, “Here’s Teddy’s crib, can you show me your crib?” has helped a bit, but The Very Hungry Caterpillar is sitting his starters in the second half of this match-up.

(5) Around the Farm defeats (4) Goodnight, Johnny Tractor
Goodnight, Johnny Tractor has a lot of things going for it. My son loves my tractorDespite its 62 inch mowing deck, ability to plow snow, and five figure price tag, my wife insists our tractor is a riding lawn mower. Of course she's from Northern Ohio where the tractors are bigger than battleships. and when the weather is warm we are always taking tractor rides around the yard. But unfortunately Johnny Tractor doesn’t look a lot like my tractor (even though both are John Deere machines) so James hasn’t put it together that the star of this book is one of his favorite things. Johnny Tractor is also fun because we can point out which animals are still awake and which ones have fallen asleep. But the amount of hoops you have to jump through to make the glow in the dark feature work (high powered flashlight? really?) and the blatant product placement gives the nod to the collection of cute Eric Carle farm animal illustrations with accompanying sound bites, ensuring that the Sweet 16 will feature Carle on Carle crime.When I read books to my son I always tell him who the author is. I mispronounced Carle (I was saying Car-lee) approximately 700 times before my wife overhead me and said something akin to, "The E is silent dumbass".

(6) Curious George to the Rescue defeats (3) The Runaway Bunny
Curious George to the Rescue has everything a 22 month old with a short attention span could want: slide and peek action, a monkey, a dachshund on roller skates, an adult getting covered in spaghetti, and awesome opportunities for Dad to make fun sound effects. In comparison The Runaway Bunny has huge chunks of text with boring black and white photos and zero text to read on the interesting color photos. It also has a Mama Bunny that makes the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother look like June Cleaver. The Runaway Bunny is sent packing, as chants of “overrated” fill the gym.

(2) Chicka Chicka Boom Boom defeats (7) I Kissed the Baby
A tighter than expected battle as my son’s current enjoyment of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom narrowly defeats the fun I had reading I Kissed the Baby to him when he was a baby. In I Kissed the Baby various animals boast of feeding, singing to, tickling, and kissing the baby. So for each part I’d singOne of the many reasons I love my son is he is the only person on the planet who requests that I sing., tickle (love his little laugh), or give him a big kiss. Also, any chance I get to quack like a duck is one I have to take. But nowadays James just wants to hear about how A told B and B told C to meet him at the top of the coconut tree. This short version of Chicka Chicka Boom BoomThe long version takes a great nursery rhyme and turns it into a Lynchian nightmare without rhythm or sense. heads to the Sweet 16.

Little Golden Books Region

(1) Peek-a-who defeats (8) Good Night, Little Bear
Daddy: “James, what sound does a doggy make?” James: blank stare
Daddy: “James, what sound does a kitty make?” James: blank stare
Daddy: “James what sound does an owl make?" James: "Hoo! Hoo!"
We have a garden and James will often help me while I am pulling weeds or tying up tomato plants. To keep the birds away we have a plastic owl that sits on a tomato stake. James loves the owl and quickly learned what sound an owl makes. He always get super excited when we read a book with an owl in it. So whenever we read Good Night Little Bear he wiggles impatiently, turning the pages furiously when allowed, all so he can get to the page with the owl on it, point it out, and yell Hoo! Hoo!. Peek-a-who has an owl on the first page. Delayed gratification has nothing on instant satisfaction for a 22 month old. Peek-a-who marches on.

(4) Hand, Hand, Fingers Thumb defeats (5) Daddy Cuddles
I have to admit, I’m very partial to Daddy Cuddles. There are just way too many books where it’s always Mama Bunny or Mama Duck or Mama Bear. Daddy always gets the shaft. But not in Daddy Cuddles! We have Daddy Kangaroos and Daddy Penguins and Daddy Koalas and Daddy Monkeys. But it’s always a little awkward at the end when we read “Just like your Daddy cuddles you” and the picture looks nothing like us. Put a mirror at the end Daddy Cuddles! Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb on the other hand is rip roaring fun the whole way through. I defy anyone to read this book without bouncing to the rhythm. And every children's book is better when it has a barrel full of monkeys.

(3) The Monster at the End of This Book defeats (6) Five Little Pumpkins
I honestly have no idea what the selection committee was thinking here. If you are going to include a seasonal Halloween book why not go with The Pumply Dumply Pumpkin? Yes there are some fun moments with Five Little Pumpkins: making the ooooooooooooooooo sound when the wind blows and laughing as the pumpkins roll out of sight is great and the pun on the back cover blurb is deliciously groan worthy. But come on! The best Halloween book moment is when the reader has to try and figure out what Peter is going to do with that pumply dumply pumpkin. Nothing puts Daddy to the test like having to spit out pumpkin pudding pumpkin pie pumpkin pickles pumpkin fry without getting tongue twisted. Bad bad call by the committee. Regardless, the lone seasonal book in the tournamentWe have yet to encounter a good Christmas children’s book. They are all awful. Especially the one with the weird alien elf. And the one that makes loud noises. And so on. gets bounced easily by Grover.

(7) Eight Silly Monkeys defeats (2) Dr. Seuss ABC
In a hard fought contest Dr. Seuss ABC loses on a last second shot by Eight Silly Monkeys. On paper this looked like a sure thing for Dr. Seuss. Sweet alliteration (Jerry Jordan’s Jelly Jars, Painting Some Pajamas Pink, Willy’s in the Washtub Washing Walda Woo) and great illustrations make this fun for both Daddy and James. But Eight Silly Monkeys pulled off the victory thanks to an unfortunate event that occurred when James was younger. One night he was playing on our bed and he fell face first into the foot board, opening a cut above his eye. From that day forward whenever we read Eight Silly Monkeys he gets very serious, points to the bed, and says, “Boom”. That’s right James! You went boom just like those silly monkeys. If only we had read Eight Silly Monkeys before we played on the bed. Solid fundamentals (teaching life lessons) carry Eight Silly Monkeys into the Sweet 16.

That's a wrap for today! Join us tomorrow when the books in the Dr Seuss and Good Night regions square off in their first round match-ups!

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