Mr Wayne’s Masterpiece

At long last, La Serpiente and I seem to have reached agreement on what a suitable book for bedtime is. No more arguments over whether we’ll read Fantastic Mr Fox or not. No more parents reduced to tears by Love You Forever. Instead, a thin hardback book that was chosen either by me or by Destroyer on our excursion to the library has turned out to be this week’s smash hit.

Mr Wayne’s Masterpiece is a deceptively short story about a girl who is petrified of speaking in public, but who is encouraged by her English and Drama teachers (Mr Trechina and the eponymous Mr Wayne) to first help out in the construction of the set for a school play, and then, having learned the script by listening to the other members of the class, take on the lead role when it’s clear that she remembers the lines better than anyone else. It’s rated on Amazon for Kindergarten to 3 years old, but there’s actually quite a few long paragraphs there, which makes it look deceptively long to the casual parental reader.

However, most of the 40 pages are large illustrations (recalling both Gustav Klimt and watercolours) of Patricia, the heroine and narrator of the story, preparing for, and then appearing on, the stage. There’s a few challenges that she meets along the way, first too shy to read her paper before her English class, and then being too scared to perform when the opportunity is first given to her.

But with careful encouragement from Mr Wayne, Patricia gains confidence (and remembers to bend her knees slightly – as in all things, the 19th century strongman advice to bend zee kneez pays dividends) and excels upon the stage. Although the idiom she uses to describe this – “I was on fire” – baffled La Serpiente somewhat (she raises questions about this upon every reading) she’s been satisfied by the explanation and has requested it every bedtime and naptime since Sunday.

Then again, she also asked for Frankenstein’s Teacher tonight, a book that had her blubbing and me laughing when we got to the death of the class hamster, and which was swiftly returned on my wife’s orders. (Kind of the anti-Love You Forever, I suppose.) But I put that down to variation in taste driven by exhaustion (similar to what drove her to shout at me for half an hour when she wasn’t allowed dessert without eating her dinner tonight).

So anyway, a good uplifting story (which may have led to her volunteering to sing solo in her music class this afternoon), pleasant illustrations and both parent and child happy with the book. That’s certainly up and to the right on the quadrant analysis of bedtime stories that I’ll produce some time in 2018…


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