Not to brag, but I am a pretty big nerd. I have spent a lot of time reading a lot of books while the other kids/teenagers/college students/adults were out interacting with people or whatever it is they do. And I just had the most amazing reading experience of my life. It involved a picture book. A picture book spin-off of a cartoon, no less.
So, Harper and I were reading the Charlie and Lola book My Wobbly Tooth Must Not Ever Never Fall Out for the 40th time. We got it from the library yesterday. Harper is obsessed with Charlie and Lola. I have no idea why. She found a Charlie and Lola book at the library once and loved it and demanded it over and over, and now every time we visit the library’s disheveled stacks she magically locates the Charlie and Lolas dotted throughout the collection like some sort of wheat-and-chaff-sorting elf.
Anyway, so my point is we’ve read this book several times already. It’s cute, with a touch of drama, but Jane Eyre it is not. It involves Lola losing her first tooth (an issue obviously near and dear to a 2-year-old’s heart – ?!) and then misplacing the lost tooth and panicking because she won’t get a coin from the tooth fairy and she wants a coin to buy a toy giraffe. Charlie, her wonderful big brother, comes up with an idea, saves the day as usual, and she gets her coin. But for some reason tonight as we were nearing the part where Lola misplaces her tooth, Harper seemed to be getting a little agitated. On the page where Lola is looking sad on the couch, having realized she really can’t find the tooth, Harper BURST OUT INTO TEARS.
“She’s upset! Loa upSET!” she managed to blub out in between body-wracking sobs. I am not exaggerating in the least. It literally took ten minutes to calm her down, going over the following pages where Lola gets her coin and is happy. I mean, what do you say? The writer in me said, “That’s the sign of a good book-reading experience, Harper. You’re really feeling for the characters!” And the mom in me immediately countered, “But of course, it’s just pretend. You know that, right? And look, Lola is okay.”
Harper: (Sniff sniff) “Charyee help her?”
Me: “Yes, Charlie is a very good big brother and he helps her out.”
Harper: (snuffle) “And Loa get her coin and her giraffe?”
Me: “Yes, look on this next page! Look how happy she is!”
Harper: “Yet’s yook at upset page again.”
We did this about a hundred times. In the end, Harper smiled a little and said, “Harper was crying. Loa upset.” Then she shrugged and requested Say Cheese!, the next in our stack.
So there you have it. This must be why people are always calling Lauren Child the Edith Wharton of the preschool set. As for me, I have to say, well, these books definitely have a certain “adapted from an adaptation feel.” They are a little on the long side and have the trademark overly-complicated stories and slightly-inferior illustrations of picture book sequels and spinoffs the world over.
That said, the collagey illustrations are definitely cute, and I just really love the relationship between these siblings. Charlie is the best darn big brother ever; Lola is spunky and a little crazy and wears outfits very much admired by Harper. And their parents don’t seem to exist, so you know they can have some fun. I’d recommend the original actual books — I Will Not Ever Never Eat a Tomato is one we really liked — over these cartoon-spinoffs, but Harper obviously doesn’t care. She also doesn’t know there is a cartoon. I hope to protect her from this knowledge as long as humanly possible.