“We are being very careful with our children.They’ll never have to pay a psychiatrist twenty-five dollars an hour to find out why we rejected them. We’ll tell them why we rejected them. Because they are impossible, that’s why…You take Christopher – and you may; he’s a slightly used eight-year-old… I watch him from the kitchen window. With a garden rake in one hand he scampers up a tree, out across a long branch, and down over the stone wall – as graceful and deft as a squirrel. On the other hand, he is unable to get from the living room into the front hall without bumping into at least two pieces of furniture. (I’ve seen him hit as many as five, but that’s championship stuff and he can’t do it every time.)” -Please Don’t Eat the Daisies
Jean Kerr, an Irish-American author and playwright, was famous for several plays, books, and several musicals. Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, probably her most beloved work, is an irreverent collection of essays on parenting, family life, and the theatre industry. Not a novel, but a collection of vignettes, Kerr has the reader laughing within the first paragraph. I laughed so heartily at the first essay that I called several friends and read it aloud to them begging them to do themselves a favor and get this book – in print or audio. The audio is fantastic!
There is something special about comedians who can make fun of parenting without demeaning their vocation or their children. Jim Gaffigan and Erma Bombeck are similar examples. Jim’s book Dad is Fat made me belly laugh. I listened to it in audio and never got so much weeding done so cheerfully! Comedians like Bombeck, Gaffigan, and Jean Kerr, generally, communicate great love for their families and their vocation while also poking good natured fun at everything that parents need to laugh at. Like the others, Kerr is witty, self-deprecating, and good reading for parents.
Penned in 1957, modern readers must use context clues to figure some of the language (like what a Bendex washing machine is) but they also enjoy a comedy that is mostly wholesome and charming. The book inspired a screenplay for a Doris Day movie adaption by the same name in 1960, and then a 58-episode run of a t.v. series from 1965-1967.
I read the book in two nights, laughing away my day. Sadly, I do have some cautions. Because this is a collection of essays, and Kerr worked in the theatre in the 1950s and 1960s, there is some material which is artistic, weird, and, frankly, a bit scandalous. By scandalous I mean adulterous and vulgar. That said, I must remind the reader that this is a book from the 1950s so, while it isn’t wholesome stuff, it isn’t pornographic or anything like what we see today. I could do without the two or three chapters towards the end of the book which cover these topics because, not only are they poor in content, they were poorly written. Those chapters not withstanding, I did enjoy the book overall. In re-reading, I will simply skip those chapters.
I believe that I saw the Doris Day film in early childhood with my parents. I also believe that I caught the second half of it on t.v. sometime in my twenties. I remembered always liking it but not really remembering the storyline. After reading the book, I was itching to see the film again. Boy, am I glad that I did! What a delightful way to fold laundry!
“You are monsters! I just happen to be peculiar and love monsters!” (Doris Day’s character to the boys)
Critics of the film say that the screenplay misunderstands the humor of the book. I think they are right. But, frankly, I am glad it’s different from the book in tone. Everything I loved about the book was in the film, the things I didn’t like were not present, and the spirit of the essays is massaged into a really charming story arc. The sets are visually interesting, the acting is highly entertaining, and the storyline is good clean fun. While there is a sultry Jayne Mansfield-type character in the film trying to seduce David Niven’s character, it is all very clean. I think that this could be a fun date-night type movie.
After several failed searches, I could not find the t.v. series anywhere online to watch.