Book Notes: Neil McFarlane’s A Month of Bedtime Stories

I don’t review the millions of kids’ books I read but I absolutely have to write about this wonderful book. It’s just $2.99 on Kindle, and worth 10 times that.

The book contains 30 longish stories that provide me and Klara with oodles of enjoyment. We read each story dozens of times, so I’m calculating that the book will take us at least to May.

The stories are told in the second person. A parent (who can be mom or dad) addresses a kid (who can be a boy or a girl). The kid has all sorts of amazing adventures but forgets them, and the parent narrates these magical events to the kid. This me-and-you structure in every story is absolutely genius for toddler audiences.

The best part, though, is that the author inserts in every story little tidbits that are very playful, very meta and addressed to parents. As every parent knows, toddler books are excruciatingly boring (I hate you passionately, Daniel Tiger, Fancy Nancy and Paw Patrol). An adult brain slowly dies through every painful rereading. But this McFarlane fellow clearly understands that and gives a bit of brain food to adults here and there in every story.

The stories have absolutely no didactic purpose whatsoever. And thank goodness and the kind, talented Mr McFarlane for that! One gets literally rabid after all of the utterly inane moralizing in children’s books. If you can’t just tell an interesting story that holds our attention because it has a cool plot, then don’t try to cover that up with stupid moralizing.

Aside from the gifted author of Llama Llama, the literary parents of the quaint old Bernstein Bears, and the absolutely genius author of Press Here books, the authors of toddler lit are the most annoying, dumb, talentless creatures I can’t wait to get rid of as soon as Klara outgrows them. Have any of you read the books about Biscuit? Or Clifford, the big red dog? The authors owe a huge debt to society.

It’s the parents’ fault. They hound any writer who’s not excruciatingly inane. Have you seen the Amazon reviews of the extremely cute Pout Pout Fish? Or some of the Bernstein Bears books? (Look at the reviews of Bernstein Bears Get the Gimmies if you want to lose faith in humanity). The Pout Pout Fish is criticized because a friendly fishie cheers up a sad fishie by giving him a kiss without seeking affirmative consent, which of course teaches toddlers to become rapists. Obviously. Also, trying to cheer up a sad fishie is in itself abusive because, once again, rapists.

McFarlane is British and has this very endearing, dry sense of humor that allows him not to care about being PC and well-liked by state school apparatchiks.

I can’t wait until Klara is old enough to enjoy books by Frances Hodgson Burnett, who is the best children’s author ever. I’m calculating it’s going to be about a year before she’s ready for those. In the meantime, I’m glad we have McFarlane.