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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Sunday, May 23, 2004

Deadlines, alas 

Deadlines prevent my continuing to post to this blog for the present. I will miss doing it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

More on Arthur's Nose 

Following up on my previous post -- the anniversary edition of Arthur stories is out now, if you're interested in this topic. I'll pop over to the bookstore and look at it soon, and post if there's any major nose info in there. According to the Amazon reviews, the nose question still isn't really answered. But Brown does provide manuscript pages with edits, photo of his own family, and lots of other concrete details about his inspiration and writing process. At least on Amazon comment remarks that the message of accepting his nose is negated by his losing it in subsequent books.

If you're interested in the whole Arthur phenomenon, there's interesting stuff about the TV version at Jump the Shark. It's amazing how many people wrote in about it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Marc Brown's Arthur: an angry rant 

Oh, I JUST do not understand it. Look down two posts to see pictures of Marc Brown's popular aardvark hero before and after his cosmetic surgery.

Tulip read her first Arthur story as part of a treasury of children's literature I got from the library. It was a mixed bag, the treasury. The best of a certain publisher's backlist, plus some filler, it seemed to me. One of the stories was about Arthur's sister D.W. being a picky eater. Finally, she is kind-of tricked into eating spinach and likes it very much. Didactic, boring, simply illustrated, pretty much harmless.

Tulip was wild for it.

Next trip to the library my kid finds another Arthur book and begs for it. She could clearly tell somehow that Arthur was the hero of these books even though D.W. was the star of the first one she read. I don't know how she knew, but she did.
Anyway, we got Arthur's New Puppy, which was confusingly written, involved the threat of sending the new puppy away "to a farm" if Arthur didn't train it properly, involved several euphemisms for pee and poop ("ooh, he just went! I think you need some newspapers") in detailing the puppy's misbehavior, and when Arthur finally trains the dog, no mention of training him to "go" outside -- and had an unfunny plot twist about the dog hiding things it didn't like that was way over Tulip's head but might well delight older children. It featured bland, orange-y pictures of simple domestic scenes; a typical suburban nuclear family, which is all very nice but not how or where we live.

Tulip loved it.

She asked for another Arthur story at the library (she knew there were lots because the covers are featured on the back jacket of Arthur's New Puppy) -- so I figured, let's start with the original: Arthur's Nose. The first one must be the best, right? It will explain the whole appeal.

Arthur's Nose is the story of an aardvark whose unkind friends constantly make fun of his enormous nose. He decides to get a NOSE JOB and goes to the "rhinologist" -- a rhino named Doctor Louise -- who essentially offers to surgically alter his nose to improve his self-image. He is clearly a schoolchild. There is no mention of HOW she will change his nose, but she is a doctor, not a magician.

She gives him cards of all different animal noses to try up against his face to see what he'll look like with, say, an elephant's trunk. There are several amusing pictures of him with different cards, which I'm sure are very appealing and funny to elementary school-aged children.

Cut to: A's friends wondering what he'll look like -- and then he emerges from the office saying he's gonna keep his long nose: "I'm just not me without my nose!" Then the last sentence reads: "There's a lot more to Arthur than his nose." -- although it doesn't say WHAT and suggests that he hasn't learned to love it, but just to live with it and not think about it so much (which is okay, I guess).

Don't children ask HOW the doctor is gonna change the nose? Don't parents have trouble answering this question? Don't all to many children KNOW people who have had their faces surgically altered? Shouldn't we teach them that such surgery DOES NOT change the way you look in the radical ways that Dr. Louise promises, and that it is a painful and expensive path for attempting self-love? Should we have a picture book about this topic at ALL? Shouldn't Arthur tell his friends to STOP TEASING HIM or go find some friends with big noses or tease his friends back, or SOMETHING other than his lame attempt to change? he does nothing but consider surgery to rectify his situation.

And last -- but certainly not least -- the subsequent books HAVE LOPPED OFF HIS NOSE. On the cover of Arthur's Valentine and Arthur's Halloween, he still has a very slightly elongated face; by Arthur Writes a Story (see image below), he is completely castrated/anti-semitically altered/rounded. Effectively negating the entire message of the first book anyway.

I did a web search to see if Brown discusses the change in Arthur in any of his interviews, but haven't yet found anything. I'll keep looking around, though.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Teen novels 

Hello. Back from the sunshine. Tulip swam every day. I read a lot of teen novels by the pool.

Well worth while: Carolyn Mackler's The Earth, My Butt, and Other Round Things. Although I'm not usually a fan of books where a central part of it is how much a girl hates her body, this one is funny and smart and unusual.

Crap: Cathy Hopkins' Mates, Dates, and Inflatable Bras. It's just a big Louise Rennison rip-off, and not even funny.

Okay: Mariah Fredericks' The Ture Meaning of Cleavage. Actually, I loved it until the end, when I literally checked to see if pages were missing from my paperback, so abrupt was the stop.

Worse than expected: Meg Cabot's Princess in the Spotlight. She's funny, but in this one I just didn't care -- whereas I enjoyed The Princess Diaries quite a bit and found the heroine compelling.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Milk Factory on Goodnight Gorilla 

Okay, I'm posting more while on vacation than I do normally, but Tomi at The Milk Factory has a really nice post on Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann, and adds a few more books to my canon (below). Check it out!

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Review! and Arthur's nose  

Allright, I haven't REALLY left town yet. I have to post, because The Weblog Review has reviewed Reading to My Kid and it says just the nicest things! Go check it out.

P.S. When I come back, I'll have a LOT to say about Marc Brown's ridiculously popular Arthur series. Did you know Arthur used to be an aardvark with an enormous nose, and now he's an indeterminate creature with no nose to speak of? check out the title Arthur's Nose, as compared with Arthur Writes a Story, below!


On vacation. More exciting literary adventures when we return from frying ourselves in the sun.

-- E & Tulip

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