Toddler Critical Theory

This book is one of the few that I specifically remember from my own childhood; I consider it to be the pinnacle of children’s literature. When Jenny found it at the Goodwill store a few months ago and bought it for me to read to Elena, I was very excited. I remember reading the book, but I don’t remember what I thought about it, so I wanted to see how Elena would interact with the book.

It is an interactive book. It’s told in first-person singular, by Grover–who is decidedly aware that he is a character in a book and that he can directly address the reader. He appeals to the reader not to turn the pages, because that brings both of them closer to the end of the book. According to the book’s title, there’s a monster there. Grover even tries various things to keep the reader from turning the page.

Elena doesn’t seem to think it’s odd that none of the characters in her other books talk directly to her, but Grover does. I don’t know what to make of the fact that when I try to mediate between her and Grover, she always elects to turn the page. Today I told her that Grover was my friend, and he was asking very nicely for us not to turn the last page, but she wouldn’t be swayed.

There are a couple of possible interpretations. It might seem like she’s carrying out a small-scale Milgram experiment on Grover, compelled to turn pages because that’s what we always do with books, but I don’t think that’s it. Instead, I think that she maintains some distance from the book’s premise–she only partially suspends her disbelief. She’s read the book before, she knows what happens at the end, and (without spoiling anything) she’s fine with the consequences that Grover must endure. Also, she’s not scared of monsters.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Toddler Critical Theory

  1. Leisa

    I love those two pictures of you reading the book–especially Elena’s facial expression in the first one.

    I also love the book. We actually have a version of it on the ipad: we’ll have to investigate Elena’s reaction to the ebook version.

  2. Pingback: Favorite Posts | The Number Field

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