As the mother of two boys, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve read plenty of bedtime stories to my kids after a generous glass of Cabernet. To be honest, it’s when I do my best Mary Poppins impersonation and can muster the stamina for three or more Thomas the Tank Engine sagas. But even if you don’t drink, these five specimens of outlandish children’s literature will convince you that you’ve spent the day bar-hopping. (Which is sometimes just what the pediatrician ordered after a day of potty training.)
1. The Skippyjon Jones series, by Judy Schachner
The premise of these books is simple: Skippyjon, a Siamese cat with massive ears, is convinced he is a sword-fighting chihuahua named “El Skippito” who goes on adventures with a group of make-believe chihuahua friends called Los Chimichangos.
Much of this delightful but boggling series is written in song, in Spanish, and in phonetic dialect. There are many fantastical illustrations. There are lots and lots of references to frijoles. I think the fifth book, Skippyjon Jones Lost in Spice, might actually be the rough draft of the Cheech and Chong “Up In Smoke” screenplay. Anyway. I think you catch my drift. Reading this when you’re just on Diet Coke is always a bit baffling.
2. The Poky Little Puppy, by Janette Sebring Lowrey
This book was originally published in 1942, back when authors were trained in wordiness and the earth took 72 hours to fully rotate on its axis. I’m not kidding you, this is the pokiest book out there. It’s Ulysses for the Huggies set. By the time you make it to page 4 of this book, you’ll feel like you’re three martinis in at a friend’s holiday party, cornered by a close-talking stranger. A stranger who keeps repeating herself and starting over and repeating herself and starting over. And also repeating herself. The good news is that this tedious book ends abruptly and in a way that makes very little sense. But, for the love of Mrs. Dalloway, it actually and eventually ENDS.
3. Best Mother Goose Ever, by Richard Scarry
Because nothing is more bizarre than a collection of outdated, borderline sexist nursery rhymes illustrated with watercolor pigs wearing bonnets. My personal favorite in this odd treasury is “Bobby Shafto’s Gone To Sea.”
That’s right. You’re not drunk. There’s a poem starring a tabby named Bobby Shafto, who, believe it or not, is not an adult film star. No, he’s just a cat in a sailor suit, heading off to combat in a little green dinghy, while his kitten girlfriend (who is dressed as the St. Pauli Girl) waves a handkerchief from shore.
It’s one of those classic European nursery rhymes that only makes sense to Austrian grandparents who remember the war. I don’t know WHICH war, but the one where the surname Shafto wasn’t funny.
4. Fox In Socks, by Dr. Seuss
I hear that when people get pulled over for a DUI, the cops ask them to recite the alphabet backward. You know what? Just have them read one page of Fox In Socks. Sweet Lorax! It’s impossible. I know this book is meant to teach children rhyming and phonics, but all it’s doing is teaching them that Mommy sounds like a wino when she has to deal with excessive alliteration.
5. My Fun With Words Dictionary, by James Ertel
This is, hands-down, the strangest children’s reference book in the world that somehow ended up on our bookshelf. I don’t know how it got here or if it’s out of print, but it’s full of stuff that only a man slouching at the end of a seedy bar could have written. I get the hiccups just reading its definitions.
Mouth: You know where your mouth is. Your mouth is the hole near the bottom of your face where the food goes in, and the words come out. Every animal has to have a mouth of some kind so it can eat. A shark has a big mouth with a lot of sharp teeth. Sharks don’t talk.
Parent: If you wonder what a parent is, ask a mother or father. That’s who a parent is, a mother or father. Some parents, like fish and spiders, don’t take care of their offspring, but most parents do.
And especially this:
Village: A village is smaller than a city, and even smaller than a town. Not many people live in a village. Usually everybody knows everybody else in a village. Some villages have strange sounding names like Balls Mills.
So. There you have it. The five kids’ books that make me feel drunk. If you ever find yourself low on beer, you can always crack open one of these for the same effect.