Getting Up the Giggles

May 22, 2012 § 1 Comment

Let’s face it: being a parent can sometimes feel like a thankless job (does he realize I’m missing precious minutes of “American Idol” while I’m washing his uniform for tomorrow, composing a creative note for his lunchbox, and picking crumbs off the floor so it will stop looking like the inside of a barn—all while he is hollering from upstairs about “one last drink of water”?).

Suffice it to say that we parents will take an Ego Boost where we can get one. And that’s why I love reading books like A Visitor for Bear (Ages 3-6), the first of the delightful Bear and Mouse books by Bonny Becker, with illustrations by Kady MacDonald Denton. Now, I could love this book because of the witty banter between the two strangers-turned-friends, or because Mouse speaks in a decidedly British accent, or because a bear dressed in an apron is just so darn cute. But, on those rare occasions when JP allows me to choose his bedtime book, the reason I run to grab this gem off the shelf, is because it makes him LAUGH OUT LOUD.

Like most kids, JP is easy to please when it comes to books: he listens attentively, he asks questions, he smiles readily. But laughs—the kind that erupt out of him with shrieks and giggles—can be hard to come by. So I take it as a personal victory when my rendition of a book has him in stitches; at that moment, I get to be responsible for the sheer joy on his face.

What about a story makes kids laugh out loud?

In the case of A Visitor for Bear, it’s a clash of personalities that results in a series of repetitive actions that the listener anticipates but the characters never see coming; in other words, the kids get to be in on the joke. Bear is your classic uptight personality: he likes everything in its place, he does things on his own terms, and he doesn’t think he needs anyone else to be happy. In contrast, Mouse is disruptive, likes company, and is desperately craving a “spot of tea.”

When Bear, meticulously preparing his morning cup of tea, answers the “tap tap tapping” on his door to find bright-eyed Mouse, he quickly gestures at the “No Visitors” sign and shuts the door. Then the real fun commences, as each time Bear returns to preparing his tea, out pops Mouse—first in the cupboard (insert a chuckle), then the bread drawer (a giggle), then the fridge (lots of giggles), and, finally, just when Bear thinks he has finally gotten rid of his pest, in the tea kettle itself (full-on hysterical laughter). “I give up,” says Bear at last; “I am undone.”

But Bear’s biggest surprise is yet to come, as he realizes that having tea with Mouse is actually more fun than having tea alone. It’s nice having someone to share your cozy fireside or admire your headstands. “No one had ever laughed at Bear’s jokes before. Bear began to think of another joke.” It turns out that Bear and I have a lot in common. Sometimes all moms want is someone to laugh at our jokes.

Other Favorites Guaranteed to Make Them Laugh Out Loud:
A Bedtime for Bear, by Bonny Becker, illus. Kady MacDonald Denton (Ages 3-6)
Grumpy Bird, by Jeremy Tankard (Ages 2-4)
Bark, George, by Jules Feiffer (Ages 2-4)
I Want My Hat Back, by Jon Klassen (Ages 3-6)
Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator, by Mo Willems (Ages 3-6)
Duck! Rabbit!, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal & Tom Lichtenheld (Ages 4-8)

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