Sunday, November 9, 2008

Book Review (Kids): In the Night Kitchen

In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak

More and more frequently, the kids are selecting chapter books from the library to read independently and with each library visit I am more cognizant that our days of reading picture books are dwindling. One of my favorite parts of being a Mom - and frankly, one of the reasons I commute home 2 hours each night instead of staying overnight at my mom's - is reading a picture book to the kids each night during snacktime.

So I've been trying to select the best of the best picture books that we haven't read, to make sure that a great, classic book doesn't pass us by. To that end, I'm very glad we didn't miss In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak.

Truth be told, I'm not a big fan of Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. It just never held any appeal for me, nor the kids. So I was somewhat ambivalent about In the Night Kitchen, but we checked it out anyway and read it last night.

Elicting gales of laughter, In the Night Kitchen is now among Betty and Boo's favorites. It's a charming tale about a boy named Mickey who dreams that he falls through his bedroom floor to the night kitchen below where bakers are concocting the "morning cake." Mickey assists by transforming the cake batter into an airplane and, flying across the Milky Way, is able to procure some milk, enabling the bakers to make the cake. Betty and Boo were engulfed in hysterical laughter while I read this book. It is not going back to the library anytime soon.

Neglectful Mommy that I am, I only realized this afternoon that to my horror, I read a controversial book to my kids last night. Yes, there are apparently two bones of contention with Sendak's book. While falling through the night kitchen in his dream, Mickey's pajamas disappear and his little-boy nakedness is illustrated with full-frontal view. Apparently this has caused some consternation among folks and continues to do so (despite the book's publication date in 1996). I must say that while I noticed this detail, it wasn't one that the kids or I were obsessed about. One of them might have said, "Oh my God, he's naked!" but in my view, this is much P.C. ado about nothing. Lighten the hell up, people.

The other controversary, it seems, concerns the baking of the "morning cake." In addition to the little kid's nekkidness, there's much hue and cry about a book for children that seemingly promotes the notion of eating cake for breakfast. (Bill Cosby's classic comedic routine of chocolate cake for breakfast comes to mind.) Well, I've got a news flash for the whack jobs that are so concerned about this book making toddlers want to eat cake for breakfast: that notion is ingrained in kids from the moment of conception. Call me cynical, call me jaded, but I can tell you that no book has ever been responsible for the lightbulb moment in a child's mind that tells him or her to torture their parents by whining for chocolate cake for breakfast (and lunch, and dinner). If anything, it promotes the idea to kids that cooking is fun.

We loved this book for its delightful, imaginative concept that there are bakers who whip up cake for our breakfasts while we we sleep and for Mickey's ability to magically enter that world. I'm glad I didn't know about the so-called controversy before checking this out; otherwise, it could very well have been among those books that we passed by while on our way to the chapter books shelves.


DemMom said...

Oh my goodness, I love Maurice Sendak! Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen are favorites of mine and Bug's. She thinks that it is talking about pancakes!

Robin said...

We are big Sendak fans over here. In the Night Kitchen is a fun one to read aloud- "Milk in the batter! Milk in the batter! We bake cake and nothing's the matter!"