cover image Once Upon a Time, The End (Asleep in 60 Seconds)

Once Upon a Time, The End (Asleep in 60 Seconds)

Geoffrey Kloske, , illus. by Barry Blitt. . Atheneum/Schwartz, $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-86619-7

Children revel in getting the upper hand on frustrated, exhausted adults. That's the concept behind this group of nearly a dozen desperately abbreviated bedtime stories (e.g., "The Two Little Pigs") and other not-so-subtly slumber-themed diversions (such as this riddle: "Why did the chicken cross the road? To go to sleep"). The stories are bracketed by visits to a boy's bedroom where a father, still dressed in work clothes, tries to satisfy his child's request for yet another story by "cutting/ Little words here and there/ So the stories would go faster,/ .../ And everyone could live happily every after./ The end." But the effect of this book will undoubtedly be far from soporific. Kids may well be reduced to giggling fits by the cumulative effect of newcomer Kloske's silly shorthand versions of old favorites. A minimalist, rhyming version of Red Riding Hood wraps up with the heroic woodsman saying, "Wow, I'm really tired, how about you?"; a familiar nursery rhyme about the old lady who lived in a shoe concludes, "When kids wouldn't go to bed,/ She sold them to the zoo." New Yorker cartoonist Blitt's watercolor-and-ink drawings exude a brittle sense of humor that's right in sync with the text's sad-sack perspective; at the same time, the artist's elegant ink line offers a visual foil to the storyteller's rising sense of hopelessness. But while the core joke here is on parents everywhere, chances are they'll be laughing too—after all, it's funny because it's true. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)