Monday, April 22, 2013

Tournament of Children's Books Final Four

Of the 32 books that started this tournament only 4 surviveIn case you missed them, here are links to Day 1, Day 2, the Sweet 16, and the Elite 8.: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Monster at the End of this Book, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, and Shark vs. Train. On one side of the field we have two of my favorite books growing up, books that I love sharing with my son. On the other side are two books that I never read as a child but are books that James has discovered and will one day love reading to his own children. Which books will make it to the title game? Let’s get to it!

Click here for a zoomable version..

The Final Four

(1) The Very Hungry Caterpillar versus (3) The Monster at the End of this Book
Wow. What a great matchup. These two books have quite possibly the two biggest shocking twist endings of all children’s books. In The Very Hungry Caterpillar you have a sweet little caterpillar going about his business eating every single thing in sight. As a kid reading this, everything seems to be going along normally: “Wow this caterpillar eats a lot of food… some of it looks yummy. And oh hey look the caterpillar has gotten bigger from all that food. I guess that’s still normal…Mommy and Daddy tell me I grow too. Okay wow that cocoon thing is weird looking but I guess it’s similar to my crib maybe the caterpillar is taking a nap and OH MY GOD WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED?!?!?! HOW DID THAT CATERPILLAR TURN INTO THIS COLORFUL MONSTORSITY?!?!?!”

Then there’s Grover. As a kid you so delight in his increasing terror at facing the monster at the end of the book, but deep down you too feel a little afraid. But that little bit of fear is nothing compared to Grover’s increasingly hysterical antics, and from the safety of Daddy’s lap you are enjoying putting the screws to poor old Grover. But still you hesitate on that final page thinking oh my maybe I should have listened to Grover after all and you begin to close your eyes just in case and hug Daddy a little tighter and then BAM! Grover IS the monster at the end of this book! Your jaw drops and you crack up at how Grover scared himself (and you) silly over something that turned out to be nothing. There’s a life lesson here you file away in your subconscious for later reflection.

So who wins this battle of surprise endings? Well, only one of these books ended up on the wall in the kids’ playroom:

(4) We’re Going on a Bear Hunt versus (4) Shark vs. Train
What a Cinderella run for Shark vs. Train. It was helped by a very easy draw in the early rounds, and buoyed by a late surge of interest from James, Shark vs. Train rode that momentum to upset Goodnight Moon in the regional final. So is it enough to knock off We’re Going on a Bear Hunt?

Well I was struggling with this one. In fact, I had paused after the above paragraph for a few days, thinking about how to approach this matchup as I enjoy reading both books to James very much, he loves each of them, and I don’t have any nostalgia from my own childhood associated with them. Should the mural approach be the deciding factor again?

But today an interesting thing happened. As James was settling down for his afternoon nap I asked if he would like Daddy to read him a story. “Sure” he replied. We walked to his room and as we approached the chair we read in he made the shark sound (“Doo Doo”) which always indicates he wants me to read Shark vs. Train. Halfway through the book something caught his eye and he pushed the book away. “What is it?” I asked. He proceed to roar and point at something lying on the ground… it was We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. I asked him if he wanted to read that instead. Big nod yes. So let it be written. So let it be done.To kill the firstborn pharaoh son. I'm Creeping Death! (Sorry, classical reference. Had to be done.)

Well at last we are down to the final two. Tune in tomorrow night for the championship match-up between The Very Hungry Caterpillar and We're Going on a Bear Hunt.

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