Sunday, April 21, 2013

Tournament of Children's Books Elite 8

Today we determine the Final 4! Which books get to cut down nets and raise banners? Which ones fall short just on the cusp of greatness?In case you missed them, here are links to Day 1, Day 2, and the Sweet 16. Here's the Elite 8:

Click here for a zoomable version..

There are no easy outs left in this tournament! Let’s get down to business!

Mother Goose Region

(1) The Very Hungry Caterpillar defeats (6) Curious George to the Rescue
Curious George to the Rescue can occupy James for maybe 10 minutes. When James was about 11 months old we took him to Florida to visit his Great Grandmother who had been sick. We were fortunate enough to book a two hour direct flight, but as anyone who has ever flown with small children knows that two hours can be a long time. Luckily I was armed with The Very Hungry Caterpillar. This book somehow managed to keep James occupied for almost the entire flight there and back. How did we do it? Remember that page where the hungry little caterpillar goes nuts and eats a piece of chocolate cake, an ice cream cone, a pickle, a piece of cherry pie, a lollipop, a cupcake, and all sorts of other junk? On this page I would take James’ index finger in my hand and say where’s the lollipop? I’d point to the pickle and yell “ERNT”. I’d point to the cake and do the same. Then I’d point to the lollipop and yell “DING”. He thought this was hilarious and we proceeded to repeat this game over and over and over. I was so happy to have him happy on the plane the repetitiveness didn’t even bug me. For keeping my son happy on an airplane The Very Hungry Caterpillar deserves a spot in the Final Four.

Little Golden Books Region

(3) The Monster at the End of this Book defeats (1) Peek-a-Who
Peek-a-Who has made a great run so far in this tournament with its owl powered offense and great sound effects. But Peek-a-Who’s weaknesses finally caught up to it in this match-up against a well-rounded opponent. Peek-a-Who suffers because by trying to include every word that rhymes with who that is easily illustrated, they forgot that the words should also all be onomatopoeia. Yelling boo with ghosts, hoo with owls, and choo-choo with trains all make sense; yelling zoo at a bunch of animals or yelling you at a very shoddy mirror? Not so much. It just feels silly yelling Peek-a-Zoo! On the other hand, The Monster at the End of this Book excels with how the author uses font size and color to help the reader know exactly how to enunciate effectively. WHAT did that say? On the VERY first page WHAT did that say? Did that say there’s a MONSTER at the end of this book? OH I am SO SCARED of MONSTERS! Not even the most tone-deaf adult reader can mess this one up. Grover might be a scardey cat but he secures his spot in the Final Four.

Dr. Seuss Region

(4 )We’re Going on a Bear Hunt defeats (3) Mr. Brown Can Moo Can You
I’ll never forget James’ first trip to the zoo. He was just under a year old and I knew what I was expecting my favorite moment to be: when James first encountered a real live bear. As soon as we entered the zoo I informed him that we were going on a bear hunt. He was definitely excited as we moved from animal to animal even as we failed to encounter bears. Little did he know we were slowly but surely moving towards the bear exhibit. The whole time I kept singing “We’re going on a bear hunt”. The great thing about the Cincinnati Zoo bear exhibit is there is a fake cave you can walk through. So just like in We’re Going on a Bear Hunt James and I tiptoed, tiptoed, and tiptoed through the cave.

And when we came out… BEARS! When I picked James up so he could see better he pointed and said “Bear”.

He could barely say anything other than Mama and Dada at that point so I can’t put into words just how thrilling this was for his Mother and I. So apologies to Mr. Brown, it's a cute book and all, but only one book in this match-up has produced a memory that I’m sure will last a lifetime.

Good Night Region

(4) Shark vs. Train defeats (2) Goodnight Moon
I have never understood it when authors say things like “The way this character turned out really surprised me”. I’ve always wondered how that made any sense. I mean they are the ones who created the character right? But now I know because when I saw how this region looked I fully expected Goodnight Moon to win easily. After all it had been one of James’ favorite books early on, had experienced a revival when we discovered that the mouse moved on every page and we could play a game trying to find him, and of course it’s one of the all time classic children’s books. But then a funny thing happened. As I was writing these match-ups James became more and more obsessed with Shark vs. Train. He is just so adorable as he makes shark and train sounds as we read. The book also has tons of cute little details to point out, absolutely horrible puns (which I love), and holds James’ interest despite its length. James started out liking this book because of the shark but now he also loves trains. In fact, his new favorite book (discovered too late for inclusion in the field) is The Little Engine That Could, which before Shark vs. Train was too long for him. It was a good run Goodnight Moon. I look forward to reading you to James’ little sister. But in this matchup you got railroaded and chewed up. CHOMP! Shark vs. Trains wins in an upset!

The Final 4 is set! Tomorrow we find out who among The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Monster at the End of this Book, We're Going on a Bear Hunt, and Shark vs. Train will be battling for the title!

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