Pros: Captivating book with lessons of love and diversity.
Cons: Please see review.
The Bottom Line: If you know a six-year-old who requires kisses--both foil-wrapped and hug-wrapped, you have been without this book too long.
Livreville? Where's That?
In Mohave County, Arizona, anyone caught stealing a bar of soap must wash himself with it until the soap is gone. (Paraphrase of Aisbitt.) I think I'll move to Arizona, steal a few Lavender soaps from a shop selling L'Occitaine products, and--oh, the horror of it!--I'd then have to use those fragrant bars.
In Belvedere, California, ""No dog shall be in a public place without its master on a leash" (Aisbitt.) Now, why don't they make pet-owner leashes? Have you ever seen one?
In Illinois, "it is illegal to speak English" (Aisbitt.) All you citizens of Illinois, you'd better learn some French, or the police will have a lot of arrests on their hands.
In Florida, "you're not allowed to break more than three dishes a day, or chip the edge off more than four cups and/or saucers" (Aisbitt). Saucer-smashers, beware!
In Denver, "it is unlawful to lend your vacuum cleaner to your next-door neighbor" (Aisbitt.) Do you hear that, Coloradans? Stop being generous with your cleaning implements--now!--or you'll be fined!
In Livreville, it is illegal to take your daughter out of a store without paying for her (Brunswycke).
In Bookland, there lives a tiny children's work known as Something Good. Brought to light by the noble Robert Munsch, this lovely tale of whimsy and love is nearly perfect--unless you belong to Anti-Math Anonymous. But I'll explain that later. What you want to know now is why on earth it would be illegal in Livreville to take your daughter out of a store without paying for her.
"Milk, Eggs, Bread, Cheese--Nothing Any Good!"
Of course, we all know that the child who penned this statement is very much mistaken. cheese must be placed firmly in the "good" category, whether you happen to prefer nutritious food or unhealthy. You see, our child protagonist is forgetting that macaroni and cheese can never be made without that calcium-rich substance. Neither can cheesecake--if the cheese in question happens to be cream cheese.
But again, I am creating a rant rather than a review. "Just the facts," you insist. Just the facts it is.
Young Tyya has become disgusted with her father's frugal, health-conscious ways. According to her, dear old Dad buys only "Milk, Eggs, Bread, Cheese--Nothing Any Good. He doesn't buy ice-cream, cookies, chocolate bars, or ginger ale." How tragic! Doesn't everyone need a chocolate-covered Marzipan Bar to sweeten the bitterness of boring grocery shopping?
So it is that, while shopping with her father, Tyya sneaks away and finds an empty shopping cart. When her father is busy buying wholesome goods, Tyya wheels her confiscated basket to the ice-cream aisle and fills the entire cart with hundreds of gallons of ice-cream until all of that "sugary junk" melts, drips, and splatters everywhere. Returning to her father, Tyya points to her sweet, milky mayhem and cries triumphantly, "Daddy, good food!"
But it is not to be. Tyya's father cannot be schmuzied. In fact, he is probably a secret member of the Parental Association of Practical Anti-Schmuzers (PAPA). This excellent, upright PAPA representative orders Tyya in no uncertain terms to put back her ice-cream.
Tyya obeys, but finds herself in trouble with a number of chocolate bars that seem to be singing pure, sweet songs until she reloads her cart. This time, Tyya is in greater trouble with her father. Not only must she return her stash of chocolate bars to the proper shelf, but she must be punished. Tyya's father designates a spot near a shelf and says sternly, "Now, stand here and don't move!"
This time, Tyya obeys perfectly. A man runs over her toe with his cart. Tyya doesn't move. Some friends stop to say hello. Tyya doesn't move--not even her jaw! A store clerk picks her up, believing her to be a realistic doll, and places her on a shelf. What do you suppose Tyya does? That's right--she doesn't move! Even when the store clerk places a price tag on Tyya's nose bearing the sum of $29.95, Tyya remains motionless.
Of course, people begin to gaze at Tyya. Assuming that this unmoving, unwavering child is an incredibly lifelike doll, they pick her up by the hair and by the ear, attempting to purchase her for their children. Even when she is rescued, her life may not be allowed to continue after its carefree fashion. What will happen when Tyya's father is told that he must pay for his daughter? Is Tyya worth $29.95?
Dolls in the Produce Section?
And I suppose you think that hospitals sell CDs of Greg Buchanan's music and that schools market Edible Arrangements. You even believe that bead shops sell ballet barres. In other words, dolls do not belong in Munsch's work. Certainly, superstores had not been invented in 1995--or, if they had, I had never experienced one. Wal-Mart was Wal-Mart, Albertson's was Albertsons--and ne'er the twain did meet.
Yet, Munsch's work obviously takes place in some form of superstore: for the majority of the events take place among groceries. Tyya's father buys bland inedibles such as sliced bread, while Tyya loads her cart with luxurious amounts of chocolate. Then, just when Tyya gets into trouble with her father, Munsch conveniently inserts a doll aisle. Wherever did that come from? When I was growing up, toy aisles were not to be found scattered here and there in grocery stores. Even now, children who do not live near a Wal-Mart superstore may easily be confused by this overt morsel of unliterary license.
Speaking of dolls, Tyya receives truly dreadful treatment during her brief sojourn as a toy. Believing Tyya to be inanimate, shoppers pick her up in some unconventional ways to say the least. Even when handling dolls, most people do not drag them by the ear or hair. Parents may wish to be aware of this if their children are at all sensitive. Be prepared for such questions as, "Didn't Tyya get hurt? Didn't her ear come off? Did she have to go to the doctor?" Or, am I being too analytical?
For years, I have cherished an audio copy of this book. One afternoon, I was listening to the narration with my mother when I began to detect a distinct and not altogether deserving pattern. Hundreds of gallons of ice-cream emerged on the scene, then hundreds of chocolate bars. Shoppers inadvertently knocked over six hundred apples, then five hundred oranges...
Now, this trend may be epitomized in a little word of wisdom from Beverly Cleary: "Once is funny, twice is silly, third time's a literary whoopin'". All right, perhaps I paraphrased a bit, but you can see my point. I was amused by the first reference to hundreds of objects and captivated by the second, but the third such reference became quite irritating. With the audio narration still playing in the background on this particular day, I remarked to my mother, "Robert Munsch likes to use a lot of big numbers." This was not a compliment.
Before reviewing this work, I discussed it with my mother and asked for her perspective on numerical inflation. According to her, such consistency might actually be attractive to children. Note, however, that my own "big-number" comment was made at the age of six. One or two allusions to the wondrous one hundred work; hundreds of references to hundreds of objects is a hundred times irritating... Do you see what I mean?
Speaking of the audio narration, I am afraid that I cannot adequately describe the illustrations for this work. I am totally blind and never saw the illustrations, and my narrator felt that describing endless drawings would only detract from maintaining the story's enthralling pace. Never fear, though, for you know you want to read this book whether or not I describe the illustrations--if only to see bushels full of fruit rolling around the store.
I will say this for Michael Martchenko's illustrations: They are multicultural. May I beg your pardon for not speaking from experience and for choosing to cite another reviewer's ideas instead? Apparently, the family depicted is interracial--an excellent note of diversity. The message is gently yet tangibly accentuated when a father in the supermarket contemplates buying a "doll" named Tyya for his son. Here, we see practiced the message that people are people and that cookie cutters truly make the entire batch of humanity rather bland.
As a child, this was one of my favorite books, no questions asked. It is not intellectual; its pages are not flooded with new vocabulary, and no extraordinary lessons are taught--save, perhaps, the lesson that chocolate bars and ice-cream are as worthy as bread and milk. Or, perhaps I am mistaken. Perhaps the greatest morals in existence have been coated in a layer of semisweet dark chocolate. Perhaps, just perhaps, a father's love for his child is the message that children and parents are to take from this book. I accept the latter hypothesis.
Now, go find a copy of this book. Oh, wait! You have to purchase the book in Spanish if you are a resident of Illinois. It is illegal to speak English in Illinois, remember?
"Something good" is exactly what Tyya, Andrew, and Julie want to put into their shopping cart. "Michael Martchenko's illustrations . . . are lively, simple and expressive. The characters practically jump off the page".--Quill and Quire, Canada's Book Review Journal. Full-color illustrations.