Review of The New Yorker Book of Kids’ Cartoons

The New Yorker Book of Kids* Cartoons

*and the people who live with them

edited by Robert Mankoff
introduction by Roz Chast

Reviewed September 17, 2007.
Bloomberg Press, Princeton, 2001. 126 pages.

My son checked out several collections of New Yorker Cartoons and this one was my favorite. These cartoons rang true in my life much more than the ones about dogs or cats or money or lawyers. With several of the cartoons, I wanted to call up friends and read it to them.—I decided to review it instead.

The cartoons by Roz Chast were some of my favorites. From the introduction, I learned that she’s a mother, too—and she has an eye for the hilarious moments of motherhood.

For example, there’s one that shows the Berlitz Guide to Parent-Teacher Conferences. We see that when you hear the phrase “She’s a riot!” in teacherese it means, “I can’t stand her.” When you hear “He’s doing just fine,” that means “What’s your kid’s name again?” Okay, maybe it’s not what the teacher is really thinking, but it’s certainly what the parents fear she is thinking.

But the Roz Chast cartoon that got me laughing uproariously was the one of “Bad Mom Cards.” (“Collect the Whole Set.”) the cards show pictures of bad moms like Suzie M. who “Let kid play two hours of Nintendo—just to get him out of her hair.” Or the awful Deborah Z., who “has never even tried to make Play-Doh from scratch.” And those are only two of the horrible things these bad moms have done to their kids. I love the way this cartoon plays off the guilt we feel about the silliest things.

Roz Chast must have had sons like mine. She pictures one saying to his mom, “Over all, I think a happy childhood is more important than the table’s being set, wouldn’t you agree.”

But the most convicting and sad cartoon in the bunch was drawn by Lee Lorenz, portraying a hen looking at her newly hatched chick and the broken eggshells around him. She frowns at him and says, “Now look what you’ve done!”

The best antidote I can think of to being that kind of a Mom is to learn to laugh at yourself. Laughing at the people in this collection is a good start.

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