“If you give a boy a (well, pretty much anything),” mayhem ensues
She must’ve been at my house. Or peeked in the windows, at least. Surely, surely she’s had kids of her own, and that’s how she was able to write it. “She” is Laura Numeroff, and “it” is her bestselling series of children’s books that started with “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” In them, a seemingly benign act (such as giving a mouse a cookie, a moose a muffin, or a pig a pancake) leads to an unexpected series of events that leaves the giver exhausted, shot, collapsed in a heap on the floor. You can see why it sounds familiar. There was, after all, the one Sunday afternoon when it all went south, starting at the kitchen sink. Oh, they weren’t shooting for literary excellence, those two. Not in the least. But as an alert relative pointed out later, it read exactly like a Numeroff book. “If You Give a Boy a Dishcloth” is what I called it afterwards. Even Laura, I think, would be hard pressed to come up with the plot the Schrocklets wrote that day. It went something like this. “If you give a boy a dishcloth and tell him to wash the dishes so you can take a Sunday nap, he’ll become a U. N. diplomat, a highly-skilled negotiator. He will offer you everything from a week’s allowance to his own firstborn in an attempt to dodge the draft. Wise parent that you are, you’ll bring in the big guns (his father), sticking to your own, and point him again at the sink. “After considerable delay (snapping his brother with the towel, a couple of chases around the table, and some pointless staring at the bubbles in the sink), he’ll finally begin to wash, giving his brother something to dry. “In the midst of such monotony, one of them will peer out the window, noting the passage of a squirrel. Dishes forgotten, they’ll rocket into the back room, tracking the squirrel through the window. Seeing that he’s burying acorns under the tree, they rush outside as their parents doze, unaware.