They say it takes a village, and thanks to the magic of the internet, your village now includes celebrity pinch readers for all those times when the mere thought of a book could make you pass out where you stand. Ironically, this list doesn’t include the one book that explicitly tells your kid exactly what would help you feel refreshed enough to read to them yourself. It does have everyone’s favorite grandma, though, because you can only sic the kid’s real grandma on bedtime duty so many times.
Harry The Dirty Dog by Betty White
This reading was done for Storyline, a streaming service produced by the Screen Actors Guild Foundation that gives you access to children’s book readings by the likes of Elijah Wood, Annette Benning, and even Al Gore. Come to think of it, this list sort of steals their gimmick, but to be fair, there’s not much here or there that tops Harry The Dirty Dog being read by Betty, the dirty granny.
The Three Little Pigs by Christopher Walken
Before Walken (allegedly) read Where The Wild Things Are, he put his signature spin on The Three Little Pigs, deadpanning absurd commentary between passages: “I like this wolf. He’s not freezing his ass off hunting snow bunnies. He just goes to pigs’ houses and blows on ’em.” The Tonight Show should add children’s stories to wheel of impressions, because, being honest, it sounded great, but … could’ve used a little more Spacey.
‘Twas The Night Before Christmas by John Malkovich Short of finding a portal that leads you into his head, this is the only way you’re going to get John Malkovich to read this Christmas classic to your kids. As only he can, Malkovich narrates and ad-libs magical holiday tidings about seasonal depression and Pai Natale, the Portuguese Santa who eats children’s toes. Like Malkovich’s fond memories of sucking pennies as a child, it’s a delight.
The Sign On Rosie’s Door by Meryl Streep
Speaking of celebrities reading iconic Sendak stories, here’s one that’s not an impersonation. (Shh, you didn’t hear that.) At the late author’s 80th birthday, Streep recalls Sendak dubbing her an “alte kakker,” Yiddish for “old fart,” before this reading. Perhaps that was the moment that crystallized Sendak’s thoughts about celebrities in publishing, as he later told Stephen Colbert: “You’ve started already by being an idiot. That’s the very first demand.”
Goodnight Moon by Jimmy Kimmel
Watching Kimmel read and discuss a 70-year-old classic with modern day young’ns, a few things become clear: 1) If that’s really all they know about the moon, it’s a good thing kids don’t want to grow up to be astronauts anymore. 2) If the one kid is telling the truth, his Uncle Kevin is the coolest. 3) Goodnight Moon might actually be the peak of Jimmy Kimmel’s reading level.
The Cat In The Hat by Justin Bieber
The Biebs did this reading for “America’s Biggest Bedtime Story,” part of the Pizza Hut BOOK IT! Program in support of Pencils Of Promise. His presence helped double the event’s viewers from the previous year, marking the first and last time he ever contributed something positive to society. (Note: That’s not fair. His new album is straight FIRE. Don’t act like you haven’t heard it.)
The Raven by James Earl Jones (And Homer, Bart, And Lisa Simpson)
Before everyone imitated The Simpsons, The Simpsons imitated the classics. In this scene from the first Treehouse Of Horror Halloween special, James Earl Jones narrates ominously, Dan Castellaneta is quintessential Homer, and Bart delivers a perfectly timed, “Quoth the raven, ‘Eat my shorts.'” The peak is a classic, “Why you little!” outburst, but the funniest moment might be Homer, whacked in the head “by an unseen censer swung by Seraphim” muttering, “D’oh! Stupid censer.”
Five Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed by Liam Neeson
Neeson’s very particular set of skills apparently includes cutting to the damn chase of those insanely repetitive stories your kid inexplicably still enjoys hearing. As he wonders why the mother keeps taking the monkeys to a doctor instead of a vet, you might wonder if he’s ever seen 5 little kids jumping on a bed. Because it sure resembles a pack of monkeys.
The Little Red Hen by Benedict Cumberbatch
If your kid gets nothing else out of this reading, they’ll at least attempt to pronounce “Benedict Cumberbatch,” which will make for a home movie everyone can enjoy watching in the future.