The winners of the 2009 Children’s Choice Book Awards, announced this week, include The Pigeon Wants a Puppy, by Mo Willems, as the Kindergarten to Second Grade Book of the Year. While I’m charmed by the simplicity of Mo Willems’ drawings, and I think his Elephant and Piggie are the best pair of friends in kid lit since Frog and Toad, I don’t like the pleading pigeon. I understand the role reversal. I understand the delight some children experience in saying, rather than hearing, “no, no, no.” I get it. I just don’t enjoy it.
Another popular children’s book that gets on my nerves is The Tale of Despereaux. I was along for the ride through most of the first few chapters, though I bristled every time DiCamillo addressed me as “Reader” — only Charlotte Brontë gets to call me “Reader” (N.B. This is in no small part why I stopped reading the often lovely Gluten-Free Girl). DiCamillo lost me when she asked if I knew the definition of “perfidy,” and admonished me to look up the word in my dictionary just to be sure. I can’t abide a finger-wagging narrator. I kept reading, since I was sharing the story with my girl, despite the tone and the inelegant perspective shifts, but I didn’t get through the whole tale. I adopted a “don’t offer, don’t refuse” policy at storytime, and my daughter lost interest in the story — something she hasn’t done with any other bedtime book.
And I may be banished from the nerddom for telling, but I don’t enjoy The Phantom Tollbooth, either. It’s entirely too clever and at some point the wordplay becomes simply tiresome. Again, I get it. I just don’t like it.
And you? What well-regarded kid’s books would you like never to read again?