Parody Book

Rochel Burstyn introduces her favorite picture book parodies that she read in 2020.

They say hindsight is 20/20.

Thank G-d for that, right? I think we’re all glad to see that toothache of a year from the rearview mirror fast receding into history.

There were a couple of personal gains last year, though. For example, last year I read more books (ahem … and watched more Netflix and ate more chocolate and gained more weight …). One genre I happened to be introduced to last year was picture book parodies.

Here are some of my favorites:

• Move over, Cinderella! Now there’s Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson, which tells the story of the girl next door, who also has evil step-relatives. Unlike Ella, Edna makes the best of it and is much more independent. There are no fairy godmothers in this girl-next-door’s life, so she happily buys a dress on layaway and takes the bus to the ball … The prince bores her to tears, but she bumps into the prince’s younger brother who’s into telling jokes, recycling and adopted kittens. “Guess who lived happily ever after?

• Perhaps Good Night Moon, which describes the peaceful, quiet bedtime routine of what’s got to be an only child (OK, rabbit) while the unrushed mother calmly knits in the rocking chair and whispers “hush” doesn’t quite resemble bedtimes at your house. Welcome to the bookshelf, Good Night, Bubbala by Sheryl Haft. This “joyful parody” describes the chaos when the extended family rocks up for some Chanukah celebrating at bedtime (“… there were two little bubbies schlepping their hubbies … and one dozen bagels and a pot of kneidels …”) causing “Bubbala” to be illustrated bouncing around on his bed, most certainly experiencing the sugar high of his cheek-pinching grandparents.

Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss has been a bestseller since its release in 1990, has sold more than 10 million copies to date and is a popular graduation gift. Now there’s a new doctor in the ward, and he serves up a healthy dose of reality. Attributed to “Dr. Suits,” Oh, the Meetings You’ll Go To describes in frank tones what happens to even the smartest grads and valedictorians out there. (“Despite your clear brilliance, you won’t be the top. And bleary and weary, you’ll work till you drop…” “Some meetings are loud and some induce groaning, sometimes you’ll get tired of the PowerPoint droning…”)

• If you’ve always found it hard to relate to the birds in Are You My Mother?, try reading Are You My Uber? by Sarah Amelia Dooley. (“He looked up. He did not see it. He looked down. He did not see it. I will go and look for it, he said. And away he went …”) The poor fellow did not know what a Ford Taurus looked like though, so he walked right by it. Don’t worry, he did get to his location in the end; there’s always a happy ending in (most) children’s books.

• Everyone knows a cookie alone doesn’t do the trick anymore; now if you want a moment of peace, you have to give a mouse some mind-numbing technology … What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll find out in If You Give a Mouse an iPhone by Ann Droyd. (“If you give a mouse an iPhone, he’s not going to ask for a cookie. Or a glass of milk. Or anything at all. In fact, he won’t hear a word you say.”) Spoiler alert: things go south really fast when the battery runs out!

I love the twists, the fun and the endless possibilities of these picture book parodies! There’s even a life lesson in there: If you don’t like the original ending, just rewrite your own!