Bedtime for Francis – Russell Hoban

POINTS: 4 out of 10.

Bechdel: 1 point
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story: 2 points. One from each of us.
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point

Bedtime for Frances is a fairly standard, charming little bedtime book. It’s the first book to clearly pass the Bechdel, as it has Frances and her mother talking to each other, and, in an interesting twist, her mother actually does very little of the active parenting in the book. The parent who repeatedly deals to Frances’ many (and imaginative) reasons for not going to bed is her father. Which I kind of dig. Yay for subverting gender norms!

No points for variety of character though. And ideologically, while it’s not terrible by any stretch of the imagination, I found myself a bit peeved by how Frances’ parents respond to her quite demanding demands by simply giving in. No way in hell would my kid get a piece of cake after bedtime when he’s meant to be in bed, especially if he couldn’t even manage to say ‘please’!

Still, Frances is a delightful character, and the things she imagines in her room walk the line between being scary and being quite obvious ploys so she doesn’t have to sleep. C’s comment at the end was, “She’s very cheeky, isn’t she?!”

We both enjoyed it though. It’s a charming little book, Frances’ lack of manners notwithstanding. It probably deserves better than its 4 out of 10, but I couldn’t really justify much more than that.

What do you think? Have you encountered Frances before? What’s your favourite bedtime story?

Goodnight Moon – Margaret Wise Brown

POINTS: 2 out of 10.

Bechdel: Nope
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story: 2 points. We both liked it.
Discretionary ideological points: 0 point

Goodnight Moon is about as iconic as they come. It’s possibly the classic bedtime story. It was originally published in 1947, and remains one of the most beloved bedtime books in the world.

But how does it stack up by our criteria here?

Well, it doesn’t pass the Bechdel, but it does have a female character! One that even speaks! (Okay, she only says “hush”, and she’s about as traditional in terms of gender role as it’s possible to be – the quintessential grandma with her knitting and her glasses – but frankly the way we’ve been going so far, I’ll take the “having a female character” thing.) There is no variety of characters, though in fairness there are only two characters unless you count the kittens and the animals in the pictures on the walls.

There’s not much to this book, really – no story to speak of, just a list of things to say goodnight to. And while I’ve read some creepy interpretations of this book that say it is about dying (because of the last few pages, in which we say goodbye to the stars, “noises” and “air”) which, given this is from the same mind who brought us The Runaway Bunny, I’m not entirely unconvinced by, I think it’s probably better to just take it at face value. Let’s say goodnight to all the things in a nice repetitive singsong way that will hopefully encourage the little darlings to whom it is being read to go the fuck to sleep.

I like it well enough. It has never taken up a solid place in my heart, but I think it’s just fine, and, despite the aforementioned nicely status quo gender role stuff, is really pretty harmless. Christopher likes it too. I wouldn’t say it is one of his all time favourites, but it does get picked for bedtime on a semi-regular basis.

Which really means there’s not that much to say about it. It’s okay. It doesn’t score high, but it’s not deeply objectionable.

I am going to actually recommend a better bedtime story book on this one though, because I do have a favourite, which is Jane Yolen’s How do dinosaurs say goodnight. I haven’t scored it, and I’m not sure it would score that highly, to tell the truth, but it is a delight, so I cannot resist the urge to mention it. 😀

What do you think? Was it one of your childhood favourites? Which are your favourite bedtime stories.