17 August 2010

Hippo Talk

A lot of children's book are stories about friendship. Many times the pair of friends in the story are opposites in some way. Sometimes the friendships are strained by the differences between the friends. Most times these differences lead to humorous situations.

I pulled My Friend Rabbit by Eric Rohmann off the shelf to read last night. This book is a Caldecott winner from 2003 about a pair of friends, a mouse and a rabbit. As Mouse states on the opening page, "My friend Rabbit means well. But whatever he does, where ever he goes, trouble follows." The trouble in this story being Mouse's toy plane that is stuck in a tree after Rabbit's attempt to fly it. But the real trouble follows in Rabbit's plan to retrieve the plane.

The story is told mostly through the pictures, with sparse text adding context. The reader sees Rabbit pulling animals onto the page to create a living ladder which he plans to climb to reach the plane in the tree. But even after stacking an elephant, a rhino, a hippo, a bear, a deer, an alligator and squirrel on top of each other the plane is out of reach. You can imagine what happens next. After chaos ensues and the animals are heaped on the ground, looking very disgruntled and ready to squash poor Rabbit, Mouse rescues his friend only to end up in more trouble. But Rabbit means well and he always has an idea.

I would write more about how this book is an illustration of the kind of friendships that I am sure Isaac will have as he goes through school. And that I am sure he will at times be most like Mouse and at other times be more like Rabbit. Instead, I have to share a cute moment.

Bedtime began late last night. Summer is winding down and we had been out as is usual on Monday nights playing frisbee and having dinner with friends for probably the last time. Matt and I told Isaac he could have two stories before bed rather than the usual five, just to expedite the ritual a bit. Isaac told me to pick the stories, and then predictably didn't like my choices. As I started reading My Friend Rabbit despite Isaac's protests, Matt picked up Isaac's stuffed hippo that he sleeps with every night and started animating him as I read. It did the trick and Isaac was amused, but was also paying attention. Matt left the room briefly just before the part where Rabbit pulls the hippo onto the page to add to his pile. Isaac got so excited that he screamed for his father to come back to see and then grabbed the hippo and started animating him, making him talk and comment on the story. Just to help you imagine this scene, this is not a small stuffed animal. It is about 2 1/2 feet long and Isaac was holding him up, moving his mouth and talking back to him. It was hilarious. And one of my favorite bedtime moments of the last five years.

Sometimes the best memories of sharing books have nothing to do with the story. In a few years, my memory of last night will fade and I may not recall what book we were actually reading. But I will remember Isaac playing and enjoying the time that we spent together with a book. It is memories like these that I want him to grow up with -- books being fun to share and the time we spent sharing them as being special.

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