mike mulligan, you let me down

It doesn’t take a literary critic to realize that children’s storybooks of today are vastly different from children’s books of yesteryear.  In many cases, that is a wonderful thing–the language is often more entertaining today, the illustrations reflect a more heterogeneous society.  When it comes to putting your sleepy child to bed, however, modern literature is frustrating.  Too many of w. and e.’s recently written books are, well, too exciting.  The pictures are bold, the pages are often tactile, and the stories are crammed full of ridiculous rhymes and verbal explosions.

On nights like tonight, we reach for the tried and true.  In our house, this honor is held by the 1939 madcap classic, “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel.”  The rhythm and repetition of this ploddingly (and often painfully) paced book typically makes short work of w.’s wakefulness.  I often think that parents of past generations were on to something–boring books make short work of the bedtime routine.

Tonight, however, I am holding a grudge against Mike Mulligan and his Mary Anne, who could allegedly “dig as much in a day as a hundred men can dig in a week.”  Mike, you failed me.  Despite being so tired that w. stretched out in the Costco shopping cart, despite being so tired that he could barely walk to bed, your travails in Popperville didn’t lull him to sleep.  He stayed awake until the bitter end.  He stayed awake until Henry B. Swap redeemed himself by hanging out with you and Mary Anne in the Town Hall cellar (an ending that I have always found unsatisfactory).

Clearly, I am going to have to find a new bedtime go-to book since as of tonight, Mike Mulligan, you have lost your mojo.


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