Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Where the Weird Things Are?

Ok, so I’m loving these Scholastic Storybook Treasures DVDs that my library has started stocking. More importantly, Harrison is loving them. We have recently checked out the one with Strega Nona and Stone Soup, as well as the one with Goodnight Gorilla and other bedtime-type stories. My favorite, I thought, would be the one we checked out today, though: Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.

Now, I don’t mean to sound pretentious, but 1) this is probably my favorite children’s book ever, and 2) I feel like I give a pretty darned good oral reading of it. I growl when the Wild Things growl, I brandish my claws when they brandish their claws and I do a pretty mean eye roll when the Wild Things’ eyes are rolling. This is definitely one of the stories that Harrison likes me to read over and over, as opposed to a quick dip through Brown Bear, Brown Bear.

I enjoy watching these videos, but often time I feel like the voice actor (who is paid, by the way, as is the director of the whole danged thing, unlike me, the Mom Reader who just does it to get her kid to stop bugging her for that particular story) makes an intonation choice that is inferior to my own for a particular story. Or maybe I just don’t like their reading cadence. Whatever. I’m uppity about how I read it versus how the paid professional reads it.

Which brings me to the point. (Finally—I know, right?) Watching Where the Wild Things Are was spooky for me because the voice actor read it exactly the way I do. I felt vindicated. And only the tiniest bit pretentious. (Ok, a lot pretentious. Whatever.)

But then we watched the rest of the video.

Man, Maurice Sendak is a weirdo.

I admit it—I’m only familiar with the award-winning, world famous book. I have no excuse, except that…well, I just don’t have one. I didn’t read them. Now I’m a little frightened to.

Sendak claims In the Night Kitchen is his favorite story that he’s written (kind of like Radiohead doesn’t like “Creep” so much, I guess). Maybe so. All I know is it was really freakin’ weird. I’m an art teacher who really loves the works of Picasso and Dali (but don’t show me any Dada—I’m just not down with that). I love weird.

Maybe I just wasn’t expecting it.

The story, such as it is, centers around a little boy who is presumably dreaming of what happens in the night kitchen several floors below him. He ends up nude, baked in a pie by these Oliver Hardy-looking cooks. When he comes out of the oven covered in dough, the cooks say they need milk so he flies through the air into a giant bottle of milk and pours some out for them. He fashions a plane out of dough with which he flies home and lands back in bed. I was agog. I’m not a prude, really I’m not, but a naked, uncircumcised kid (yeah, you could tell in a cartoon!!) just creeps me out.

The other stories were just as out there. Pierre is the ubiquitous story about a boy who doesn’t care about anything until a lion eats him. (Yes. A Lion Eats Him.) His parents, who should have had some sort of discipline plan in action long before they just decided to go wherever it was they were going, leaving him at home with a hungry lion, take said lion to the vet who turns the poor animal upside down, causing the boy to fall out. Suddenly, he cares. Crazy, man.

Honestly, I don’t mind being a pod person/plebe/mass by just reading the ‘popular’ book and overlooking the others. I don’t know if it was just the era—late ‘60s, early ‘70s—or what, but the stories were just too much for me.

Oh well, at least the one I cared about was cool.

In other news, we also went to the art museum today. It’s a totally free activity that I always forget about because I’m just never on that side of town. Harrison really seemed to like it. He’s definitely got a preference for sculpture over paintings and other 2D works. He liked it all so much we walked the (admittedly somewhat small, but very impressive) collection twice. I think he’s going to take some classes there next summer.

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