Look at this Book! Contrary Mary

* Every Tuesday we introduce you to a favorite book from our secret book room, and give you a unique recipe over on our Book Cook page…

 Contrary Mary Cover

Today’s great book: Contrary Mary by Anita Jeram (1995, Candlewick Press), illustrator of Guess How Much I Love You and many others.
Time to Read: short, great for bedtime after a long day at work
Summary: Mary Mouse decides one day to do the opposite of what she is supposed to do.
Best Quote: “Are you awake, Mary?” her mom called. “No!” Said Contrary Mary.

Our View: Everyone has felt frustrated at some point in life, whether at age 4 or 40. I think that’s why this week’s book has remained so easy to find in our book room since its first publication in 1995. The book introduces us to young Mary Mouse as she awakens with that contrary feeling that we all recognize so well.
It is a bit like Opposite Day for Mary as she progresses through the day with her parents, who ultimately play along with her and end the day on a high note. The rich illustrations and the rhythmic cadence of the words make for a simply understated yet important story that helped give a name (“contrary”) to this very normal feeling that my kids and I have certainly experienced ourselves and seen in others.
When someone is now described as “contrary,” we know exactly what that means because of this wonderful book. We also enjoy the follow-up book Birthday Happy, Contrary Mary (1998)!

Remember to visit our Book Cook page for a “Contrary PB&J” recipe created by the kids to accompany this particular book.

House of Pages

“Every day, the story of your home is etching itself into the spirit and memory of your children.” – R. Dobson

House of Pages

When the girls were little, they loved to wrestle. Eventually, we turned that unbridled energy and fun into a game called Monster Trap. We would take turns being the monster, whose job it was to stretch out on the floor and pretend to be asleep (a dad’s perfect after-work toddler game, believe me), while everyone else huddled together to plan the best course of action for getting out of the room without “waking up the monster.” If the monster awoke and tagged one of them before they could get out of the room, they in turn became the monster and took their spot on the floor and the whole silly thing would begin again. It was always crazy and funny and loud and interesting to see not only how they planned their course to success, but also what would and would not wake up the monster. And, because they were young, they loved to change the rules on me nearly every week.

Since the kids are older now, we hadn’t played it in a year or more, but that changed just last night at dinner. Our youngest (age 8) was in an unusually somber mood. She described to us a disappointing day in which: her closest friend and cousin was returning home to another state after a month-long stay with us, it was too hot outside to ride bikes, it was bath night, we were eating something new and unusual for dinner, the first chapter of her new book was too boring, her scraped-up knee hurt…among other things.

I can honestly say that I have never heard this sweet kid look more downcast or share such disappointment, so later I mentioned something about our old wrestling days and she immediately got up from her chair at the other end of the table and came to my side. “Dad,” she whispered. “Let’s play Monster Trap tonight. I get to be the monster.”

When they were little, I learned quite a bit about my kids’ personalities during such games. One was quick to jump in and play pretty rough, another held back and chose her moves with great deliberation, while another often got her feelings hurt or feigned some mysterious pain so her sisters would feel badly for her and maybe let her win.

Though we are all a little older and a little wiser now, last night’s monster trap was just as much fun and just as interesting to me. I see again that we are writing and reading and living a new chapter in our lives, a new page of games and words and ways among us.
Looking back and looking ahead, I realize that our children have written themselves so profoundly into this home’s storybook. And they rise and fall, play and plan, laugh and cry, fail and succeed, hope and worry, pray and wonder on every single page of it.