Mmm, Cookies!

By Robert Munsch

Who doesn’t love cookies?
Christopher certainly loves cookies – but not nearly as much as pranking people! He discovers a conveniently left pile of play clay (I think it was made by the mice – pay careful attention to the picture), and decides to make something with it. That something, as it turns out,is a giant red cookie covered in sugar, icing and raisins (ick). Then he gives it to his mother. This goes over as you might thing – with her gagging and planning revenge on her son. Meanwhile, he’s back in the basement, planning prank number two, this time on his father. He gets his comeuppance in the end, when his teacher pranks him back. And then everyone makes real cookies.
Cookies! Yum.
Munsch books are very popular in my library; I currently have one left on my shelf. But I’ve started to notice a pattern – parents never do anything in these books. It’s always the student, and then maybe another authority figure (eg. a teacher) who helps solve the problem. Otherwise, the children are the stars and the mischievous protagonists. No wonder I liked these so much as a kid.
I also love telling the kids that he’s Canadian. Because, of course, I am very proud of my home country and the few celebrities we produce.
Mmm, Cookies! is a really fun Munsch book. It’s no Love You Forever, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s about a kid pranking his parents, but with a payback in the end, so you don’t need to worry about your kids thinking they can get away without consequences.
Michael Martchenko is present on illustrations, like he is for the majority of Munsch books. His illustrations add a love of movement and colour to the book, even when the scene is still. It’s this movement that I really like. For example, in one picture, Christopher is presenting his father with a “cookie” bigger than he is tall. His father is putting his coffee mug down while the dog is trying to rip his sock off. Most artists would have a picture with much less life, and the life of these pictures are always my favorite.
There is also movement in the words. The sound effects are large and have a life of their own. Often they’re in a different font, and will grow in size, or go up and down on the page. Great visual cues for kids following along, or reading on their own for the first time. Even better – make up little hand motions and get them to do it with you. It works amazing well with my group of grade twos.
Go pick up this book if you have a little boy or girl who loves a good, silly story about cookies and play clay! (Added bonus: the book includes the play clay recipe)
Suggested ages: 6-9

Giant Or Waiting for the Thursday Boat

By Robert Munsch

I was raised in a secular household, went to a Catholic high school, and studied religious studies in school. For all of that, I feel I fall on a balance; I don’t consider myself religious, but I have a lot of academic knowledge. But for all of that, sometimes obvious things go completely over my head.

Take Giant: Or Waiting for the Thursday Boat. I loved this book as a child. I have literally read it to pieces, but we still have it. It’s an oversized picture book, set in Ireland, where the giant McKeon is upset that St. Patrick is driving out all the elves, snakes, and giant and replacing them with church bells. In retaliation, McKeon throws every church bell he can find into the ocean. The fighting escalates, with St. Patrick telling McKeon to complain to God. God, of course, comes on the Thursday boat, so McKeon sits down to wait. The first boat that arrives is a small craft, manned by a little girl. McKeon decides she can’t be God, and she sits with him as he waits. Other ships come in, bearing much grander occupants, but none of them turn out to be God.

Sick of waiting, McKeon takes the little girl, leaping up into Heaven. The fighting between McKeon and St. Patrick continues, and they try to find God to set their issues to rest. It turns out the little girl is God, and inside her house there is more then enough room for giants, elves, snakes, saints, and church bells.

I did not know that this book was at all challenged until very recently. Heck, for years I don’t believe I ever caught on that the little girl was God. In no way does this take away from the message, though; in the end, Munsch creates a beautiful story of acceptance and forgiveness.

(As an aside, I do think McKeon got the lesser end of the deal, since, as the last giant in Ireland, his departure means that there are no more giants, elves, or snakes. Well played, God)

My silly thoughts aside, I love books like this, that encourage children to think, and play with their perceptions on the world. The downside comes, of course, when parents overreact and try to have a book yanked from the shelves. I’ve commented on this before, and won’t again; read the post instead. I’m afraid I’ve almost become jaded on how overprotective parents are at books that offer very little threat. So, while this controversy surprised me, I thought I understood. Of course parents might be offended about the depictions of religious figures in Munsch’s book.

But I was wrong.

The controversy was not, as I thought, about how God was portrayed. If you had asked me, parents would have complained that God was a child, or a girl, or black. But no, the controversy was because McKeon threatened to “pound God into applesauce”.

I can sympathize with parents, I really can. The world is scary, and you worry that anything can influence your children. Seeing what was written in the days before political correctness (like the use of blackface minstrels in Little House on the Prairie), I can’t say I blame them for sometimes overreacting. But sometimes the controversies make me laugh, or at the very least shake my head. On my part, I like to focus on the good things about Giant. For one thing, the artwork does a great job of making McKeon larger-then-life, while making the girl small. The artwork works well with the text, each balanced by the other. On a deeper level, I love how Munsch plays with how God appears, and her role as the last person you would expect to be God. We need more books like this, ones that challenge the parents as much as the still-malleable perceptions of children.

Suggested Ages: 6-9

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