Reading to my Kid <$BlogRSDURL$>

 / . Reflections on children's literature and the process of reading aloud, which is both political and emotional.
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Friday, February 27, 2004

Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber 

It's awesome. It's what I call a "good mental hygiene story" -- meaning that at some point mid-century picture books started having this agenda NOT of helping children learn how to behave properly, but instead helping them to COPE with stressful situations. But even though it's got a lesson, it's delightful. Very funny and full of character.
Waber's later Lyle Crocodile books kind of turn my stomach, but when he's good he's magnificent.

Duck in the Truck by Jez Alborough 

Just read this book to Tulip. She had no particular response. The book is about this duck whose truck is stuck in the muck and various animals help her get it out and then she drives off and leaves them all stuck in the muck.
I'm thoroughly opposed to didactic picture books, well, on second thought that's not true, but many of them leave a bad taste in my mouth --
and yet --
I found myself wanting to say to Tulip: "Hey, that duck isn't very nice. She didn't even say Thank You. She should have helped her new friends out of the muck."
Of course, the argument could be made that this book IS a moral book because it invites that very comment -- the readers are left to themselves to decide the obvious conclusion that the other animals are unhappy and the duck is ungrateful and impolite.
So I was surprised to find myself wanting that authoritative, authorial intervention -- some sentence from Alborough saying "hey, I'm not on the side of the duck, here!"
The way he leaves it, it can also be interpreted that the duck is just gleeful about leaving the others all muddy (because it's funny) and that we are meant to laugh at their predicament.
Maybe I've got no sense of humor and should just lighten up. Or maybe I'm right.
A list of Alborough's books is here:

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The Little Golden Books website

I'm still working out this interface. Sorry. This is the link to the Little Golden Books site.

Golden Books 

Just read a this weird Golden Books compilation story in the doctor's office, where we waited an HOUR for a checkup. Tulip (my kid isn't really named Tulip, but I'm calling her Tulip here in honor of a Rosemary Wells book I really like that I think is out of print: Benjamin and Tulip. Tulip is always attacking Benjamin, she's this really feisty racoon-ish kid). Anyway, Tulip, my daughter, asked to read this book, and it's called something like Baby Brown Bear's Big Bellyache, and in it BBB promises his mother not to eat the jar of honey he's taking to a picnic, but he eats it all himself and then feels sick
(and I think: why didn't his mother send him with some HEALTHY food if she didn't want him to eat all that honey?)
and then his friends at the picnic advise him to go swimming and dance, and roll down the hill, and of course he doesn't feel better, and then he goes home and is penitent, and his mommy helps him realize he shouldn't overeat or break his promises, and that's it.

So already, to my eye, this is an annoying book in which
1) BBB is led into temptation by his mother sending him off alone with a big jar of liquid sugar
2) given bad advice that's not even clearly identified as bad advice, such as go swimming after you've eaten a big meal, to the point that I was sure BBB was going to drown or at the very least throw up
3)learned his lesson in that bothersome way that the Little Golden Books have made famous, even though I do like some of them.

But here's the even weirder thing: the friends that BBB goes picnicking with are stars of various other little golden books: the Pokey Little Puppy is at the picnic, and the Tawny Scrawny Lion. So it's like the powers that be at Random House (which now owns Golden Books; there's actually a pretty good little history of the Golden Books and the Little Golden Books on their site) decided that the world of Golden Books was like Super Friends! That show where it turns out that Superman is pals with Green Lantern, etc. So it seems to me that the entire purpose of this book is really to act as a sort-of brand cement, glueing the various stories together so that child readers will connect them, even if they haven't noticed the similar binding.

Even Disney doesn't do this crap, at least not to my knowledge. I mean, there aren't books where Belle and Ariel and Nemo and Snow White are sitting around having tea?
well, I guess they do that at Disneyland. But not in books, I don't think.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Intrigued by Shelley Jackson and Roald Dahl 

I'm so intrigued by Shelley Jackson, who's the author of a lot of children's books (Sophia the Alchemist's Dog; The Old Woman and the Wave, etc), plus some radical feminist art and the book Melancholy of Anatomy. I always love to read about people who write for both children and adults, and have a real range of concerns as authors. Roald Dahl was that way. He wrote dirty-minded things like My Uncle Oswald, where --oh, I can't remember it exactly -- they've decided to bank the sperm of a bunch of geniuses, unbenknownst to the geniuses themselves, and freeze it and then sell it, so they get the geniuses all hopped up on spanish fly, and... you get the idea. And then he wrote scary dark short stories, and then Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I have always loved that about him, and Jackson seems right up that old tree.

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