So, yesterday, I'm on the train with the kids on the way to The Muppet movie (which, by the way, was a little sad -- when did Kermit get so sad?) and we're reading Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, by Louis Sachar. Now, I'd gotten the book because my daughter had asked for Sideways Stories from the Wayside School, and the bookstore didn't have it, but they had Stranger stories. And, I'd recently read Holes, also by Sachar, which is a lovely book (until the end, when it's a little too much good news even for a kids' book). But, I have to say, in Stranger stories we got to a chapter about one Mr. Gorf who has three nostrils and uses one of them to steal children's voices and then calls their moms and tells each mom how much her son or daughter hates her. (Mr. Gorf said he did this because these students "took his mommy away and he's going to take their mommies away." His mommy turned students she didn't like into apples.) In any case, this didn't feel like the cruel, fascinatingly horrible things that happen in fairy tales, or in, say, A Tale Dark and Grimm (which I loved). Nor did it feel like the bad but you know it's not serious kinds of things that can happen in books when the author is being "funny". It just read as mean, gratuitously mean. Granted, we didn't get to the end of the chapter because we arrived at our subway stop, but I have to say, I was pretty disappointed in Mr. Sachar. When choosing books for kids, we trust authors we know, authors we've read, and while not every story has to be like the others, I wasn't expecting revenge via prank calls. Boiling evil magicians, now that I'm OK with. Prank calls that make children cry? Not so much.
Update: I just asked Helen if she finished the chapter with her dad. She did. She liked the ending when a pepper pie made Mr. Gorf sneeze out all the voices and then Mr. Gorf's whole nose flies off. I admit it, it's funny. But funny enough to make up for this stricken faces in the middle? I don't know. Maaaybe.