Let’s ‘Planet of the Apes’ These Picture Books
When I first saw the original Planet of the Apes it left a big impression on me, due in large part to the twist ending. For those that haven’t seen it – spoiler alert (wait, this film came out in 1968 – spoiler alert retracted) – the main character (astronaut Taylor, played by Charlton Heston) realizes the strange planet he landed on is actually a post-apocalyptic future earth. Heston’s character learns this in the final iconic scene where he encounters the Statue of Liberty, decayed and half-buried on an ocean beach.
But, friends, the ol’ “put the statue of liberty in the background” trick could work for more than just Charlton Heston films. It could also be used to significantly enhance well-known picture books. Such as . . .
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd
Before: An unidentified narrator bids goodnight to everything inside and outside a bunny’s room. A bedtime classic.
After: Two words: nuclear winter. That’s why it’s so quiet around there.
The Berenstain Bears’ Trouble at School by Stan & Jan Berenstain
Before: Brother begins to do poorly in school. After some soul-searching and wise advice from Gramps, he improves.
After: Forget everything you thought you knew about the Berenstain Bears. Similar to the apes in Planet of the Apes, the bears have taken over the planet, with only a few lingering relics to remind the bears that humans once lived there.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Before: After being sent to his room, a boy imagines journeying to a land filled with monsters. After letting loose with the creatures, the boy returns to his bedroom to find his supper, still hot.
After: Max’s boat is clearly a time machine, allowing him a glimpse of a dystopian future earth.
The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat
Before: Imaginary friend Beekle, tired of waiting for a boy or girl to conjure him, strikes out on his own, sailing to the city and eventually meeting his friend Alice.
After: The picture Alice creates to show her friendship with Beekle depicts a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Twist! The civilization Beekle has entered into is 600 years in the future.
Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
Before: This one’s pretty mind-bending to begin with. A pair of boys dig a hole in the backyard hoping to find something spectacular. They fall asleep and tumble through the air, landing back where they started . . . or did they?
After: Sam and Dave dig the hole to use as a fallout shelter. It works. When they fall asleep, much more time passes than it seems, and they return home to find things changed, ever so slightly. The cat and dog, staring at the once-glorious Lady Liberty, say it all.
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About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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