Ernie's Big Mess, by Sarah Roberts and illustrated by Joe Mattieu, published by Random House (1981)
The first song our daughter sang was ABC, learned after quite a few viewings of the 'Sesame Street Alphabet' song, which she adores. Even now, when she wants to watch a little Sesame Street, she asks for "ABCs", her shorthand for a visit to the wondrous world created by the Children's Television Workshop.
As a child growing up in the UK, her access to Sesame Street is generally limited to the classic episodes and clips available online. These were, at the time and even now, groundbreaking in their portrayal of inclusiveness, integration, welfare and community.
We're glad that, as well as the inevitable contemporary influence of Frozen and Minions, she enjoys the stories of Ernie, Grover and co, and the show's morally grounded classic songs, such as "We all sing with the same voice".
As a child, I had a collection of Sesame Street books from a "Start to Read" series. These short, toddler sized hardback picturebooks capture the warm, sentimental mood of the show through colourful illustration and gentle fable. It was with great delight that I discovered them in a box a few months ago, including my favourite - Ernie's Big Mess.
The friendship of Bert and Ernie is a famously fractious one. Here, the juxtaposition of the ultra neat, serious Bert with the fun loving, messy Ernie, results in an angry Bert shouting at his old pal for all the mess he's made, telling him he wished he lived on his own. Later that evening, Ernie packs his belongings and takes to the streets, searching for somewhere else to sleep.
Although his neighbours are kind and try to accommodate him, he's forced to move on: Big Bird's nest is too pointy and hard, Grover's bed too small, and Oscar doesn't want to let him near his rubbish bin.
Meanwhile, Bert, feeling regretful that his friend has been hurt by his harsh words, is out looking for him, unable to sleep. When eventually he finds him asleep on the ground he says sorry and welcomes him back to their home, only for Ernie's suitcase to unlatch and pour out a mountain of clutter.
Happily, the friendship between this unlikely pair holds firm and all is forgiven.