I read somewhere recently that an average four-year-old child asks 437 questions a day. That statistic in itself does not surprise me--after all, Sooby is four, and I frequently find myself on the answering end of what seems like an endless barrage of questions. But what I did not realize until just a few days ago is that all 437 questions can occur during a seemingly innocent bedtime reading of Clement C. Moore's "The Night Before Christmas." Here are some highlights.
Googie: Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
Sooby: What were they stirring? Why didn't the mouse get to stir?
Googie: They weren't stirring anything in a bowl. Here, stirring means "moving around."
Sooby: Why weren't they moving? Were they playing freeze tag?
Googie: It just means everybody was asleep. Let's turn the page.
Googie: While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
Sooby: Did the kids wake up when the sugar plums danced? Did they tap dance? Did it hurt their heads? Does a sugar plum have legs?
Googie: It just means the kids were dreaming something good. There wasn't any actual dancing. We call this personification.
Googie: Never mind. Let's go on.
Googie: Away to the window I flew like a flash/Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
Sooby: Did the daddy have wings?
Googie: No, he didn't really fly. He just got up and went to the window in a very big hurry.
Sooby: Did he get in trouble for tearing the shutters? Was that lady with a handkerchief on her head mad?
Googie: No. Luckily, she didn't wake up.
Sooby: Did the daddy THROW UP? What color was the sash?
Googie: On we go.
Googie: . . . a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.
Sooby: What does miniature mean?
Googie: Very small.
Sooby: Why is the sleigh small? Why are the reindeer tiny? Why doesn't Santa have big reindeer? How can little reindeer pull a big fat man? [She looks at the picture] Where is Rudolph?
Googie: [Sighing and crossing her eyes] He comes into the story later.
Googie: The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth . . . .
Sooby: Why is Santa SMOKING? Doesn't he know that is bad for you? Will it make him sick? Is he going to smoke in OUR house?
Googie: I don't think he smokes anymore. This story about Santa was written a long time ago. Come on, we're almost to the end.
Googie: . . . and a round little belly/That shook, when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
Sooby: What is Santa laughing at?
Googie: It doesn't say. I guess people that are jolly just laugh a lot.
Sooby: Why is the jelly in a bowl instead of a jar?
Googie: Well, jelly couldn't wiggle if it was in a jar. This is a simile. Don't ask--never mind.
Googie: And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
Sooby: How can Santa go UP the chimney?
Googie: Very. Carefully.
Googie: . . . and to all a good night. This means it's time to say good night to you too, Miss Sooby.
Sooby: [Question 436] Can I ask just one more question?
Sooby: [Question 437] Can we read it again?
Googie: Not now. It's time for me to settle down for one of those long winter's naps. Maybe tomorrow.
Tomorrow. A new day. A new chance to read with Sooby. A new set of questions.