A Happy Ending…For Some: Subversive Texts for Tots


Everyone loves a happy ending, don’t they?  Well, no, not really.  Some of us – no doubt those who suckle at the bountiful teat of schadenfreude – quite enjoy a bit of calamity and emotional turmoil descending on the heads of otherwise loveable characters.  But how to introduce such universal themes to children? Fear not my dears, for I have a range of books to fulfil this very need!  Oldies, but goodies, admittedly, but perhaps some that you have not encountered before, and can therefore add to your arsenal of go-to books for times of “wanting to glory in the misfortunes of others”…..

Firstly, the delightful Sandra Boynton brings us a modern day tale of exclusion with her painfully honest But Not The Hippopotamus.  The happenings in this one will be familiar to anyone who’s ever wanted to be part of the in-crowd, and anyone who’s ever managed it and then thanked their lucky stars they weren’t left on the shelf (figuratively speaking of course. Shelves are fine places to be left, in my line of work.)

Next is the oft-told (or rather, oft-hoped-for!) classic story involving the underdog getting one over on the annoyingly bossy boss-person.  Little Bunny Foo Foo: The Real Story by Cori Doerrfeld is apparently a take on a traditional funny children’s song that I was not exposed to until a few days ago.  While this lack of exposure is, in itself, outrageous, the events unfolding in this cheerful little jaunt provide a modern cautionary tale for bossy-boots and dibber-dobbers everywhere, in the form of a sweet little ditty that can be sung at will (preferably with actions).  Thus it is suitable for even the smallest student of subversion!

In a slightly less cheerful vein (for rabbits, anyway) is the wonderful Wolves by the ever-popular Emily Gravett.  This book follows a studious little rabbit as he navigates the world of wolfkind through a borrowed library book.  While this book will no doubt put fear of wolves (and indeed, library borrowing) into little rabbits forever after, it also provides a simple, and age-appropriate introduction to difficult scientific concepts….such as the food chain.

Last but not least is the classic Not Now, Bernard by David McKee.  The schadenfreude of this offering is less for the tots and more for the parents, as Bernard (he of the title) is eaten by a monster and his parents don’t notice.  Who amongst you flesh-parents does not enjoy a little judgemental rant now and again at the expense of lesser parents? If you have not come across this book before, it is worth seeking it out for its chillingly prescient take on modern society…or just for the fun of jumping on the self-righteousness bandwagon.

I hope these titles are helpful in assisting you to educate your little minions of future sedition.

Until next time,


Introducing Mad Martha….and bedtime books for little gargoyles.


Mad Martha, pictured here on a holiday visit to the Cumberland Pencil Museum.

I feel it would be remiss of me at this stage not to introduce to you someone who shares shelfspace with me.  Mad Martha is another denizen of the shelf, who shares my role as book guardian, and also defends the shelf against spider hordes as and when necessary.  I have extended an invitation to her to join me in my blogging endeavour, and she has kindly accepted that invitation.

Now, to the business of musing.  I have been asked by a follower to share my knowledge in the area of books that are best suited to ushering little gargoyles (and fleshlings) off into the land of Nod.  While there are many books that fit this criteria, I have selected three that I feel do the job admirably…

A classic of the “digital” age

The first of these is Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, by that wizard of wordsmithing, Mem Fox.   The gentle rhyming text assists little ones to count their own digits instead of the more traditional counting of sheep, in the pursuit of drowsiness.  A word of caution however: the repeated refrain of this book “and each little baby/as everyone knows/has ten little fingers/and ten little toes” may make it a controversial choice for those who do not possess a full complement of fingers or toes.  Or indeed, those that possess a full compliment plus reinforcements.

Who’s in charge here?

Next is Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! by the incomparable Mo Willems.  This titanic struggle betwixt reader and pigeon will be all too familar to parents of  stubborn little fleshlings, for whom sleep is a dirty word.  Parents will enjoy the tried and true excuses trotted out by the manipulative pigeon and reading the book with their offspring should significantly reduce a young fleshling’s arsenal of bed-avoiding strategies.  And no, you can’t have a glass of water.

This won’t take long…

Finally, Snugglepuppy (A love song) by Sandra Boynton is the perfect way to sing your mini-me to sleep.  It’s true, the important message in this book doesn’t take long, but it is well worth conveying at any time of day. Loudly. So that the neighbours can hear. And develop a deep-seated envy of your wonderful connection with your young fleshling.  And wish were half the parent you are.

Please feel free to comment and share any other wonderful bedtime books that you feel should be added to the list.

Finally, today is Roald Dahl Day…you may wish to celebrate by eating copious amounts of quality chocolate.  Or perhaps a giant peach.  I wish to celebrate by sharing this quote from the man himself – about the value of bookshelves.

Until next time,