Sesame Street by the numbers: Reading good stuff to good kids

Youngest Daughter pulled an oldie but a goodie off the bookshelf. Any Muppetologists out there have this in their archives?

We bought this treasure circa 1976 in a Venture big box retailer en route to Kansas City during our annual pilgrimage from Cincinnati. There’s me, bored beyond all measure in the backseat and pining (i.e., whining) for something to do, and I recall pulling into the store for the express purpose of finding something to shut me up.

That’s when this magic entered my life.

It’s ten stories, each devoted to one number. I loved it, and I can remember turning each page over and over as we drove.

As I’ve re-discovered since dusting this book off for Oldest Boy, not every story hold up. Some of what I loved as kid is either treacly or tedious today. But there’s one story that is just as mind-blowing to me now as it was back then. I re-read “The Monster’s Three Wishes” so often the ink should have worn off the page. What’s not to love about this?:

The art is credited to an artist named Kelly Oechsli, though the authors of the book get only a group billing (Emily Perl Kingsley, Jeffrey Moss, Norman Stiles and Daniel Wilcox — whomever wrote this section, he or she got robbed of some righteous credit.) The only thing more fun than reading this story is reading it aloud to a kid. Try it:

The Monster’s Three Wishes

Once there lived a little monster
In a kingdom far away.
And a very strange thing happened
As he brushed his teeth one day.

As he squeezed his tube of toothpaste
Deepest thunder shook the skies.
And suddenly a genie stood
Before his very eyes.

“I’m the genie of the toothpaste,”
Said the genie with a laugh.
“I’ve been trapped inside that toothpaste tube
For 3 weeks and a half.
You squeezed the tube and set me free
So here is what I’ll do –
I’ll let you have 3 wishes
And I’ll make the all come true.”

“Oh boy!” exclaimed the monster,
“Wow! 3 wishes just for me!
Now let me think and then decide
What my first wish will be.”

Now my favorite thing is cookies,
Thought the monster with a grin.
But first I’ll wish for something nice to keep my cookies in.
I would like a million cookies,
But before I use that wish…
“Hey genie,” said the monster.
“Will you please bring me a dish?”

“Will I ever!” said the genie,
“For your wish is my command.”
And instantly a dish appeared
Right in the monster’s hand.

“Hey, I did it!” cried the genie.
“Wow! I haven’t lost my touch!”
“it’s a nice dish,” said the monster,
“But it won’t hold very much.”

The monster thought of all the cookies
That he’d soon get with his wish.
And he knew a million cookies
Couldn’t fit in one small dish.

He would need something much bigger.
So the monster said, “Hey, Genie!
I would like a great big box…
This plate is much too teeny!”

“You want a box? You got it,”
Said the genie with a smirk.
And instantly a box appeared.
The monster cried, “Nice work!”

But although the box was pretty big
And could hold lots of stuff –
Could it hold a million cookies…?
It just wasn’t big enough.

So the monster called the genie
And said, “Boy, am I in luck!
Since you’ll give me what I wish for …
How about a great big truck?”

And right away a truck appeared
Before the monster’s eyes.
“Fantastic!” cried the monster.
“It is just the perfect size!”

“It will hold a million cookies,
And I’ll never have to worry.
And this is what I wish for!
Give me cookies now! Please hurry!”

“I am sorry,” said the genie,
“For though cookies are delicious,
I cannot give them to you
‘Cause you’ve used up your 3 wishes.”

“Oh, no!” exclaimed the monster.
“Is it true? I just can’t tell.
For although I’m good at eating things,
I do not count so well.”

“Let us count these things together,”
Said the genie, “and you’ll see –
The dish is 1, the box is 2,
And then the truck makes 3.”
“3 things! You’re right,” the monster said,
“Now what am I to do?
I’ve used up my 3 wishes
And I’m very hungry, too!”

“Gee, that’s too bad,” the genie said,
“But now my job’s complete.”
“I’m so hungry,” said the monster,
“Oh, I need something to eat!”

“I’m sad your wish for cookies
Can’t come true,” the genie said.
“That’s okay,” replied the monster ……

“… I’ll just eat the truck instead!”

“And as the monster ate the truck
The genie disappeared
Saying, “I have seen a lot of things—
But boy …  is that guy weird!”

Yeah. Pretty great, huh? To relive it with actual Muppets (and without rhyming) view it here. And while time lasts, be sure to vote for Cookie Monster over at the Muppet tournament bracket. (Where my man Beaker was defeated in Round One. Who put him up against Animal anyway? He should be duking it out with lookalike Pepe…)

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Sesame Street by the numbers: Reading good stuff to good kids

  1. Ugh. Beaker is way cooler than Animal. How can I be a self-proclaimed Muppet enthusiast if I did not know about this tournament bracket? Sheesh. I’m floored Wembley bested Gobo. Even though Wembley is my Favourite Muppet of All-Time, I never expect others to agree. Red beating Mokey? Ugh. No way.

    Anyway, I loved this post. I feel as though I may have seen this book before but never read it. I loved this silly ballad. It’s so perfectly Cookie Monster.

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