Back in the dark ages, when dragons flew and knights gallumphed, a relative (most likely my grandmother) sent me two wonderful small books: What Do You Say, Dear? and What Do You Do, Dear? I'm sure the sender sought to improve my four-year-old manners.
What happened instead was an insight into comedy that certainly influences me today.
Because the absurd situations proposed by Sesyle Joslin's text and so deftly illustrated by Maurice Sendak made me giggle every time I read these books.
After all, who expects to the pirate or the desperado to make the courteous correct choice when:
..the lady you are forcing to walk the plank drops her handkerchief?
...the reader you've lassoed asks you to tiptoe through the library?
Who finds the most mannerly words to say when:
...a pilot drops into your living room?
...the Queen feeds you so much spaghetti that you don't fit in your chair?
Over the years, I came to appreciate Sendak's darker and more turbulent offerings for children. But these two books remain, for me, far more important than Night Kitchen or Wild Things. These are the books that taught me comedy...and perhaps a few manners.
Tonight, what do I do? Read some Sendak for the wisdom, humor, and humanity portrayed in his drawings.
Tonight, what do I say? Thank you.