Sophie keeps a picture on her desk of me reading her a story when she was about two years old. The book featured was Nancy Hazbry’s How to Get Rid of Bad Dreams: a traumatic story offering graphic detail on a variety of bad dreams children might have, with advice on how to counter them.
For example, one page offers this sample of a delightful childhood lark:
If you dream you are being attacked by one-hundred-and-ninety-nine billion black, scary, hairy bugs with green eyes and red stingers, don’t worry.
All you have to do is…
An illustration of an enormous, hideous black ant fills the page. Fortunately, by turning the page, the reader can find the solution to such a dream:
whip out a can of silver paint and spray it all over the bugs, then take a deep breath and blow them into the sky . That will make one-hundred-and-ninety-nine billion new glittering stars.
I found it rather disconcerting, but at the time Sophie was too excited to have me reading her a story to register any of its content. Since then, the story has become legend in her world, and when I asked what story she wanted to read tonight, she announced “The Monster Book” as her preference.
Unfortunately, her collection of books is large, and The Monster Book was nowhere to be found. I offered alternatives:
Me: How about the Green Eggs and Ham book we read yesterday?
Sophie: I want The Monster Book!
Me: What about one of these new books you got for Christmas?
Sophie: I really want The Monster Book!
Me: Ooh! You have The Princess and the Frog! You loved that movie! Should we read this book?
Sophie: (fake tears pouring out) I really want The Monster Book!
We searched through her bookcase, one book at a time. She even insisted that we consult the picture of me reading it last time to be sure we’d recognize it today. About halfway through her collection, we found it.
She jumped eagerly into bed (one of the few times this has ever happened), and curled up to hear the legendary story, her level of excitement waning with each frightening new scenario.
And when I turned the last page, she sat silent for a moment. And then:
Sophie: (incredulously) Why did you read me The Monster Book? Now I’m gonna have bad dreams!
As a software developer — essentially a trained logician — I really can’t formulate a good rebuttal to that.