The location has changed (my kids are no longer hanging in hook chairs from the center island to eat; instead we are all at the kitchen table), but the routine remains in the same—we read books over breakfast.
Reading and eating at the same time leaves me a bit breathless, but when my 21-month-old yells, “Book! Book! Read It!” as he gets strapped into his high chair, and his 3-year-old sister responds to his call by running to the shelf to pull down a few of both of their favorites, well?
I’d deny them books like I’d deny them waffles, berries and yogurt.
As I’ve said before, not any book will do at bedtime, and not any book will do at breakfast, either.
Breakfast books need energy. It’s the start of a brand new day!
They need to engage us with questions or a catchy refrain that we can yell out together.
They need to be fairly short—if I ever hope to get a bite in edgewise.
I’ve come to rely on How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague (The Blue Sky Press, 2000) to start our day as much as I rely on my coffee, which usually, by the time I finish reading, is cold.
How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night is one of those picture books that appears simple. It begins: “How does a dinosaur say good night when Papa comes in to turn off the light?”
And continues on the next page: “Does a dinosaur slam his tail and pout?”
And the next:
“Does he throw hid teddy bear all about?
“Does a dinosaur stomp his feet on the floor and shout: ‘I want to hear one book more!’?”
Already there is a chorus of “noooooos” coming from around the kitchen table and pure delight in the pictures of humongous dinosaurs dwelling in kid-size bedrooms playing with kid-sized trains, soccer balls and teddy bears.
“Soccer ball!” “Choo Choo!” “Bear!” my son points and yells every morning, while I enjoy the various degrees of confusion, exhaustion and exasperation on each of the different Papas’ faces.
Each page shows a different (cleverly labeled) dinosaur in a different room with a different Papa—giving those of us with our own toddlers/dinosaurs to put to bed each night a reassuring reminder that the bedtime battle is universal.
For the last question during Papa’s bedtime attempt Yolen writes, in ALL CAPS to further emphasize that this is a turning point: “DOES A DINOSAUR ROAR?”
And then goes into the next page asking:
“How does a dinosaur say good night when Mama comes in to turn off the light?”
Could there be a more perfect use of italics?
The Papa pictured on this page has thrown his hands up in the air! The Mama’s hands are on her hips!
Things are about to get serious. Look out you ginormous T-Rex peeking out the door. Mama’s putting you to bed, now.
There are more Mamas, more dinosaurs, more questions:
“Does he swing his neck from side to side?”
“Does he up and demand a piggy back ride?
Until finally the questions get answered:
“No, dinosaurs don’t. They don’t even try. They give a big kiss…(at this point my son shakes his head back and forth pretending he won’t give me a kiss, but when I get close enough he puckers up, and then I’m off to the other side of the table to smooth my daughter, too)…They turn out the light….”
And as it turns out, dinosaurs are actually incredibly cooperative at bedtime, and on the last page we see one all snuggled up with teddy and read, “Good night. Good night, little dinosaur.”
And yet, this just couldn’t be a bedtime book in our house.
Not only do I not want to even remotely risk putting ideas like “crying” and “pouting” in my 3-year-old’s head (we have enough trouble getting her to simply keep her head on the pillow), this book has WAY to much bounce and invites such a lively call and response it would never put us to sleep.
It’s How My Kids Say, “Good Morning?” around here.
Although we are not completely without sentimental, bedtime-like moments at breakfast.
This morning, after I said “the end” and slammed the book shut my daughter said, “Wait! Mommy! Open that back up! I want to give that sleeping dinosaur a hug and a kiss.”
And so she did. And then my son did, too. And there’s a sticky syrup smudge on T-Rex’s lips to prove it.
For more information on Jane Yolen, who “has been called the Hans Christen Andersen of America and the Aesop of the twentieth century,” check out this website: www.janeyolen.com.