Sweet Cherry-Hots

“Daddy, will you sing the Cherry Hot song?” I twisted and squirmed until I found a comfortable position, chin pressed against my soft Barney the Dinosaur sheets. My teeth were brushed, my nightgown was on, it’s time for bed.

“Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home…”

I finally rested my head on my pillow, face turned towards his. He ran his finger over my forehead and down my nose, again and again.

“Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home…”

It was hard to keep my eyes open; with each stroke of his finger, I’d blink, and my eyes would open a little slower each time.

His voice swung low, tone-deaf, but I couldn’t tell. Its deepness resonated through my chest.

The words didn’t matter, it was just the cadence with which he said them, the same way he did in church when I’d rest my head against his chest and hear his deepness resonating out through vibrations into my ear. No one else could hear the way he shook the earth with each word, but I could.

“Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home…”

He’s what brings me home.

Storytime: Weslandia

Upon re-reading this book after graduating from the uber-liberal-and-socially-aware Evergreen State College, a small part of me started wondering if this book romanticizes the “native” way of living; if this book perpetuates the White Man Returns to Nature trope that plagues our movies, books, and shows. But, for the sake of childhood, I decided to ignore these feelings and just enjoy the book as I did when I was young.

Right, Pooh Bear? Let's just stay in childhood forever.

Right, Pooh Bear? Let’s just stay in childhood forever.

Weslandia follows a young boy, an outcast, who is teased at school and doesn’t fit in. One summer, he decides to start a project that ends up blossoming into his own world.

It’s a story that encourages independence and initiative, as Wesley takes charge of his life and makes it into something he can enjoy. It’s like a blanket fort: his curiosity and imagination create a space all his own, a place where he is safe and happy, untouched by the outside world. He creates his own reality.

Industrious little fella.

Industrious little fella.

And this is how Wesley finds friends, by first fully finding himself, and living without compromise.

Storytime: Yo! Yes?

It’s ridiculous how endearing this book can be with so few words. Chris Raschka gives Dr. Seuss a run for his money with this all-dialogue interaction between two kids that begins with the oh-so-simple “Yo! Yes?

YoYes

It’s almost a call-and-response. “Yo!” says the first kid. “Yes?” replies the second. “Hey!” “Who?” One is sassy, the other shy. “You!” “Me?” (Amazon describes this book as having two characters, “one black and one white,” which was weird to read, because it makes the story about race, and I never really read it that way. Sassy and shy was how I always identified them.)

Check out that hand on that hip! So sassy.

Check out that hand on that hip! So sassy.

And the conversation continues from there, no more than three words per page, totaling 34 words all together. It’s sweet and straightforward, and yet so much fun. The drawings manage to express the emotions behind the dialogue. Kids learn to read not only the words, but also the body language of the characters. It’s an example of how reading is more than just words, of how tone and context affect the meaning.

It’s a lovely little book that captures how perfectly simple friendship can be.

 

Storytime: King Bidgood!

“King Bidgood’s in the bathtub and he won’t get out! Oh, who knows what to do!?”

Thus starts one of my favorite childhood books. It’s got that swing to it, that rhythm from nursrey rhymes and playground songs that makes it easy to pick up. Kids feel like they’re reading along, and they know what comes next.

The illustrations are what make this particular rhyme memorable. The attention to detail makes every page engaging, with unique and dramatic details hidden in every corner.

Yeah, that's the king in his bathtub, with a cake topper of himself in a bathtub.

Yeah, that’s the king in his bathtub, with a cake topper of himself in a bathtub.
And yes, the text is backwards, cuz of the photo.

As time passes, the sun goes across the window, changing the light of the familiar stone arches where these pleas for help have been occurring. The characters have melodramatic faces, each more amusing than the last as they take their turn in the spotlight, trying to rescue the king from his pruny fate.

Seriously, this lady is freaking out right now.

Seriously, this lady is freaking out right now.

And the story, well, it’s just like one a kid makes up, while playing in the bathtub. “I am the king! I will never leave my tub! Bring me my lunch, bring me my soldiers!” Maybe the best children’s authors are just big kids themselves. Which just confirms what Tom Hanks taught me in Big. Adults are boring, so hold on to your inner child.

It's all about being a kid at heart.

It’s all about being a kid at heart.