Post-Menopausal Authors Reimagine Classic Children’s Books
June 3, 2022 § 16 Comments
By Mary Kay Jordan Fleming
In THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR by Eric Carle, a larva nibbles plants for five days, binges on Day 6, samples a single leaf on Day 7, and emerges from its cocoon two weeks later as a perfectly proportioned butterfly.
The reimagined manuscript features a female caterpillar who eats healthy foods in moderation for five days, commits a minor indiscretion (a single-dip ice cream cone) on Day 6, and then repents, starves, and does CrossFit on Day 7. Two weeks later, the sweaty, bloated insect furiously hacks her way out of the sweltering cocoon, spots her skinny spouse swilling beer and eating his weight in Doritos, and declares all of this “bullshit.” Her head explodes.
In WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE by Maurice Sendak, a rambunctious, wolf-suited youngster is sent to his room where he enjoys a wild romp with imagined monsters.
Retooled for midlife, this story introduces a mature female protagonist who goes to her room only to discover the “wild thing” in the mirror is her own reflection complete with jowls, wrinkled saggy skin, and lots of hair but not where it’s supposed to be. Her spouse joins her but there is no romp because she has been exhausted since her first pregnancy.
IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE by Laura Numeroff features the humorous escapade of a small rodent who eats a cookie, requests milk, develops a milk mustache, naps, and needs another cookie.
After a minor plot tweak, readers discover a middle-aged woman who eats a cookie, drinks decaf because menopause has rendered her unable to sleep, and develops a real mustache. She consoles herself by hiding in a closed pantry with an entire sleeve of Thin Mints.
THE GOING TO BED BOOK by Sandra Boynton illustrates the nightly routine of animal characters who bathe, brush their teeth, and rock to sleep on their little boat.
After a light reworking of this plot, readers observe the nighttime routine of a pitiable middle-aged woman in desperate need of sleep. After a quick shower, she moisturizes for an hour using products costing at least $300, assembles sheets and blankets of various weights and materials, and turns the ceiling fan on high, defying anyone to comment it’s “so cold in here I can see my breath.” Between mopping up neck sweat and determining which limbs she must hang outside the covers to achieve a bearable temperature, the heroine opens 37 browser tabs on her phone in search of moisture-wicking pajamas, silk pillowcases, and wrist thermostats that promise to lower her core temperature. She stumbles on the suggestion that last Tuesday’s headache might have been an aneurysm. She never sleeps again.
CHICKA CHICKA BOOM BOOM by Bill Martin, Jr., and John Archambault sees letters of the alphabet crowd to the top of a coconut tree, overwhelm it, and fall to the ground with minor scrapes and bruises.
Retitled Chicka Chicka Doom Gloom, the updated story portrays a beautiful coconut tree ravaged by time. The tree’s only two coconuts hang progressively lower as it ages, especially each year when a radiologic technician climbs the trunk to compress the coconuts almost to the bursting point. The tree dries out, her trunk shortens, and a new ring of fat appears around her middle. The tree drips when exercising, coughing, or sneezing, and threatens to crush the next person who says she is “living her best life.”
THE RUNAWAY BUNNY by Margaret Wise Brown showcases a bunny dissuaded from running away after his mother promises to bring him back no matter where he goes or how he disguises himself.
Retitled I’ll Let You Run Away If You Take Your Father with You, the modified plot finds a rebellious teen threatening to spend Spring Break on a party bus to Florida. His exhausted mother pledges not to stand in his way if he takes his father along as “chaperone.” When the teen protests, she explains he can drop off his dad anywhere along the route as long as she gets one quiet week alone in the house.
OH, THE PLACES YOU’LL GO! by Dr. Seuss portrays a fanciful character who overcomes loneliness, temptation, and fear with kindness and optimism—a strategy “ninety-eight and three-quarters percent guaranteed” to succeed.
The new version portrays an early-60s character who rids her home of mirrors, cancels magazines that feature Size 0 models, rejects chemical fillers that turn her face to plastic, and declines to dye her hair because she’s good enough as she is. The book identifies several places disagreeable housemates can go, including one destination that would make routine hot flashes feel like air conditioning. 100% guaranteed to succeed.
Mary Kay Jordan Fleming is professor emerita of psychology and a multi-award-winning humorist with publications in McSweeney’s, Next Tribe, Next Avenue, and elsewhere. Find her essays at the pinned posts here: https://www.facebook.com/MaryKayJordanFleming and in several anthologies including Sisters! Bonded by Love and Laughter.