Children’s Book of the Week: Cornelius P. Mud
Cornelius P. Mud, Are You Ready for Bed? by Barney Saltzberg
Let’s say you come up with the idea for a children’s book. The idea is: a pig is getting ready for bed, but he’s not really ready for bed until he gets a hug from his mom. This book could easily go in the direction of what I think of as “grandparent” books; that is, books that are cloying and sentimental and that some grandparents buy for their grandchildren, but which the grandkids don’t really ever get into.
Or, your pig book could become the wonderfully funny and simple Cornelius P. Mud, Are You Ready for Bed? The jokes in this book are entirely visual (if you just read it without the pictures, it might very well be that grandparent book). Cornelius, the little pig, is getting ready for bed. “Did you put your toys away?” asks his mom. “Yes!” says Cornelius, as we see him stuffing his toys into the fridge. “Did you feed your fish?” “Yes!” and there he is dropping chocolate chip cookies into the fish bowl. My favorite is “Have you used the bathroom?” Cornelius says “Yes!” because he has used the bathroom to stage a Wild West scenario in which the toilet is a horse.
I also love that Cornelius’s mom lets him be himself. When he puts on his pajamas, and then also scuba gear and bat wings and underwear on his head, she doesn’t say a word. He does eventually take all the extraneous gear off, but you get the idea its of his own accord.
The boys love this book. Henry can read it on his own, and they love pointing out the silly things Cornelius is doing, especially because everything he’s doing is something they’ve either done or seriously considered.