Last year, I had the pleasure of meeting Nicole Leigh Shaw, one of my co-authors of I Just Want to Pee Alone.
She’s a trip.
Nicole writes a very funny blog, Nicole Leigh Shaw, Tyop Artist.
You see? See what she did there?
Anyway, one of Nicole’s regular features is the Character Assassination Carousel.
It’s not as bad as it sounds.
On the CAC, a blogger takes a children’s book and finds all of the ridiculousness that is hiding in the midst of a sweet story for children.
Last week, Nicole featured Miss Spartacus who wrote about Harold and the Purple Crayon, which, while I love the imagery and creativity of the story, always has me wondering, ‘Where the heck are his parents?’
As my turn approached, I struggled to figure out which book I would choose.
I have four children AND I’ve been a teacher for 18 years.
At this point, I feel like I can safely say that I know all the children’s books.
So, I decided to go with one that we know well, but that maybe other people didn’t know so well.
It’s a little book that I picked up at a garage sale about ten years ago.
It’s called Bert and the Missing Mop Mix-Up.
So, let’s talk…
The story starts out plainly enough.
Bert is painting (which is not a surprise, because of the two, Bert is clearly the worker bee) and he’s working so hard, he decides he’s thirsty.
What else would a grown man who has spent the day painting the kitchen want to quench his thirst?
A glass of milk.
Except, as Bert grabs the milk from the fridge, it slips from his grasp and splashes all over the floor.
Bert, not used to a mess, (because you’ll remember, from your childhood, that Bert is also the neat one) starts screaming for Ernie.
Ernie runs into the kitchen and immediately misunderstands what has happened.
“Bert! Why did you pour milk on the floor?”
And Bert, who is ever frustrated with Ernie, corrects him.
And then, he asks Ernie to leave the apartment and go find a mop.
This puzzles me.
Bert is known for his neatness.
It’s kinda his thing.
And yet, there is not a mop in the house?
I mean, I can kinda get on board with this, because there’s not a mop in my house, either.
But, what I do have…what I use at least four times a day to clean up spilled milk…is paper towels.
I find it hard to believe that Bert doesn’t have paper towels in the house.
Or that it doesn’t even cross Bert’s mind to use the drop cloth that is spread on the floor, right next to the spill.
Bert needs a mop.
And Ernie, being the dedicated “roommate” that he is, heads right out to Sesame Street to find Bert a mop.
The first person that Ernie sees is Betty Lou (not to be confused with Prairie Dawn).
Betty Lou doesn’t show up on the tv show too much, however, she’s a big player in the Sesame Street books.
I hear she’s more than a little afraid of the camera and it’s ten pounds.
So, Ernie explains the situation to Betty Lou who immediately offers to help, because what else would someone do on Sesame Street?
Then you turn the page.
Looks like Hooper needs to start stocking Q-tips.
Misunderstanding or not, Betty Lou commits to help and runs off down the street.
She makes a smart choice, here, because she runs directly to Oscar’s trash can.
If anyone has a map (even though no one actually needs a map) it’ll be Oscar, cuz that guy has everything in that can.
So, she bangs the lid, is greeted with Oscar’s usual nastiness, and she asks for a map.
Oscar says he’s sleeping and doesn’t know if he has a map and goes back inside.
When he’s sure Betty Lou is gone, he pokes his head and out decides that if Bert needs a mat, he’ll find one and then everyone on Sesame Street will leave him alone.
It’s at this point, when I’m reading this to the kids, that I do some thinking reading and say things like “Hmmm…I’m beginning to see a pattern here. Are you seeing a pattern? What is happening?” and then we discuss the mix-up.
It’s also at this point that, in my head, I start saying to myself, “Aw crap…this is going to be endless.”
Since Oscar’s can doesn’t really move (although I have seen him hop it around on occasion), we need to wait until someone comes to him for the next mix-up to occur.
Who could it be?
It probably won’t be any of the humans on the street because they have actual brains.
So, who’s the biggest dummy on Sesame Street?
The first mistake Big Bird makes is asking Oscar how his day is, as if Oscar will respond in any other way than “Rotten.”
Because Oscar knows Big Bird will just stand there, looking stupidly at him until he elaborates, Oscar explains that Bert is looking for a mat and he is trying to find one, despite the obvious fact that he hates helping.
If Big Bird were a true friend, he might take this as an opportunity to help Oscar get to the root of his issues.
“But why,” he might begin, “do you hate helping so much? Did your mother ask you to do too many chores as a child?”
“Have you ever thought,” he could prompt, “that if you bought one of these nice apartments on Sesame Street and moved out of the garbage can your outlook on life might improve?”
But, Big Bird is no therapist.
No, what Big Bird is, people, is an enabler.
He doesn’t just offer to help, he runs home yelling “If Bert needs a mitt, he must want to play baseball! Maybe I can play, too!”
Big Bird, come on, buddy.
You are not going to be picked to play baseball.
You have t-rex arms and that’s just not conducive to hitting it out of the park.
But, he gets back to his nest and starts rooting through the junk he has stored among the twigs and he finds his bat and his hat, but has to keep looking for his mitt (which no one needs).
And along comes Grover.
And I begin to think, “Yes! Now it’s going to get good,” because Grover is my favorite Sesame Street character.
He sings the best songs, he has the best characters, the best plot lines.
He’s sweet, he’s kind, he’s sensitive.
Grover will certainly get this mess under control.
So, Big Yellow tells Grover that he needs a mitt for Bert and Grover says he’ll be so happy to look for one and runs home to look.
And damn if that Grover doesn’t immediately tell his Mommy that he needs a mitten.
But, I’m kinda not mad at him, because he still lives with his Mommy and he loves her and he said ‘mitten’ and ‘mitten’ is such a cuter thing that ‘glove’ and so it’s all good.
And then I stand corrected from an earlier statement I made when I said Big Bird was the emptiest-headed Muppet, because Herry shows up, and when Grover tells Herry he needs to find a mitten for Bert, Herry makes a bee-line for the pet store and gets…
Kids…can you guess? What might Herry be getting at the pet store that rhymes with ‘mitten?’
You got it…a kitten.
And thank goodness he does because he is the first person to actually find what they are looking for so he can actually go to Bert’s apartment and end this nonsense.
Scene shift back to Bert’s apartment where he is STANDING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE KITCHEN LOOKING AT THE MILK ON THE FLOOR and waiting for someone else to clean up the mess.
What…is he one of my kids?
And, suddenly, everyone rushes through his door, Oscar included, because his feet have now, apparently, come through the rusted out bottom of the can, with their items in hand.
The map, the mat, the mitt, the mitten (aw), and the kitten.
And Bert’s all “WTF?” and “Where the hell is Ernie?”
But then Ernie runs in with a mop and Bert tells him he’s too late and they all look lovingly at the kitten that is now lapping up the milk.
And it’s at this point that my kids tell me we should really get a dog (cuz we aren’t cat people), and I look at my kitchen floor and I start to agree.
If you are looking for more of the Character Assassination Carousel, be sure to head to Alice at Wonderland next Monday!