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Cliffnotes for kids

July 14, 2010

Writer and poet Jorge Borges once said that he “imagined heaven to be a kind of library.” Wistful words from a man who never felt the soft glow of an iPad against his face. Or left 700 plus Facebook friends frothing at the braces for his next status update. Truth is, reading—as in books, with actual pages—has become a quaint, 19th-century concept whose day has all but passed.

But what about reading to your child? Surely even your Pixar-addled four-year-old deserves some exposure to the classics, right? Plus, you never know what kind of arcane crap they’ll slap onto a kindergarten admissions test these days. Best to cover your bases.

Which is why I’ve prepared a series of Cliffnotes for popular children’s books. Books which, if read word for word, cover to cover, could take you the better part of ten minutes to complete. So get smart. Stop wasting time. Heaven is a place on earth, and that place is your couch. The goal is to get there as fast as you can. 

Somniphobic Camelid

Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney

Synopsis: Mama llama reads baby llama a bedtime story then leaves to do the dishes. Baby llama weeps, whimpers, and wails until mama llama returns to kiss him goodnight.

Themes: Fear, isolation, the ephemeral powers of literature.

Your kid might also like: Sophocles, Swedish death metal, Donnie Darko

Charity Case

Corduroy by Don Freeman

Synopsis: A defective department store teddy bear is taken in by a little black girl and her mother, but not before he searches high and low for his missing button.

Themes: Loneliness and companionship; maintaining dignity in the face of consumerism.

Your kid might also like: Maugham’s Of Human Bondage, Antony and the Johnsons, anything with Tom Hanks.

Fraudulent Feline

Skippyjohn Jones by Judy Schachner

Synopsis: A fantastical tale of a Spanglish-speaking cat that thinks he’s a Chihuahua. In his closet he battles a bean-plundering bumblebee that’s really a piñata, and finishes his adventure just in time for bed.

Themes: Curiosity as catharsis; the limitlessness of human imagination.

Your kid might also like: Surrealism, early Flaming Lips, LSD.

Mother Goose

Sex by Madonna

Synopsis: A classic family yarn about a confused young virgin who seeks to express herself in a world of leather masks, rubber choke balls, and conical pasties.

Themes: The fleeting state of innocence; coming of age in a material world.

Your kid might also like: Puppies, rainbows, human bondage.

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 28, 2010 11:40 pm


    I loved this clever, inspired blog. I love the way you intelligently juxtapose, albeit sometimes uncomfortably, the alleged innocence of children’s classic literature with the truer, dark themes children often intuit.

    Your writing is lively and amusing. As the mother of a six-year-old, I empathized with you. I appreciate the Hitchcock-esque family snapshot you put at the top of the website. Clever ideas and the pace of the writing is brilliant. Well done!


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