Monday, January 21, 2013

Book No Go

Books are important in our household. And we love that the children love books. Jordan goes to her bookshelf, the minute she gets up in the morning, hair all mussed up. Evan must have a book with him, even at meal time. While we know that it is rude to have books at the dinner table, it's something I don't mind as long as it isn't a proper dinner where everyone is eating at the same time. I have fond memories of sitting down with my meal and reading a book or magazine while I eat. In fact, I still relish the time when I am able to do it. Even Muffin has recently taken to looking at books and being extremely taken by them. He has his favourites which we have to read to him ad nauseum.

We don't stinge when it comes to books. And regardless of how tired we are, we read to them, before bed. That means, we go through a whole gamut of books very quickly and are constantly on the look out for new ones. We have some great books but we have also discovered some books that we would really not want to read again and hide from the children if possible.

I think many of them have abject lessons behind it. But they score low on the delivery. There is Little Rabbit Foo Foo who is naughty and keeps bullying the woodland creatures and the Good Fairy gives him three chances. Obviously he doesn't take it and ends up being turned into a Goon. Packrat looked horrified the first time we read it. And the twins, even though they didn't say anything, never asked for it again.

My sister-in-law knows that I am anti-sharks' fin and am boycotting the new Marine Park at Resorts World because of the way the dolphins were and are treated. So, for Christmas, she gets Evan My Friend Whale and gave specific instructions that I should read it with him. I did. And I almost cried at the end when the whale didn't show up for days and the boy was worried about his friend. The implication was that, the whale got hunted because the next page detailed all the horrific stuff they do to whales. It is supposed to end on an activist note, to teach kids that it's not too late and yes, we can still save the whales so boys with whales as friends will need to fear less for their friends. And even though I want to fight for the whales and will teach my kids about animal cruelty, the book wasn't something I could get through without feeling heartache and wincing because I knew that the whale was going to die and the boy was going to be sad.

 So, those two, we've rapidly removed from the kids' immediate library in their room. The next books, I haven't even read to them and will probably never read to them. I have 2 copies of the Giving Tree and I feel so sorry for the tree that gives and gives. Perhaps a tale about love and not expecting anything in return but to me, it is indicative of our increasingly entitled generation that takes without any thought of giving back. I like the alternate version of the Giving Tree has the tree falling on the guy eventually and I like that version better. Come uppance, I say! But the cynical version wouldn't be something I'd read to them either. Better they discover that one for themselves when they are ready.

Then there is Love you Forever. I first heard about the book when I was watching Season 10 of Friends and Joey reads the book to Emma, as a gift. I thought it was really sweet and it is, when the little baby boy grows up, looks after his mother when she is old and eventually, the circle starts again because he has his own baby girl at the end of the book. So I went out and found a second hand copy of the book. But what was disturbing was this page, about his mother, as an old lady, driving across town in the middle of the night and craddling her son, a grown man.

" If all the lights in her son's house were out, she opened his bedroom window, crawled across the floor and looked up over the side of his bed...she'd picked him up and rocked him back and forth..."
Smothering. Unable to let go. All those things that I hoped and have made Packrat promise to not let me do.

I would much read them the PG version of Go the F*k to Sleep because it's funny, it's mirrors our parental frustration and wanting to hang with our spouses, it's honest and minus the obscenities, it's not a bad bedtime book.

So, not all books are created equal. But I must qualify this. A lot of why we don't like the books above is because of how it affects us. But then again, I don't know how else to judge how it would affect the kids. Just like Disney cartoons. I still can't watch Bambi because Bambi's mother gets shot by the hunters, Dumbo because his mother gets locked up and the circus is cruel to him. And until I'm certain that the kids can deal with that or rather I can deal with it, no Bambi and no Dumbo in our household.

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  1. We have the little bunny foo foo song in one of our CDs, and going by the song, we'll probably never read the book! I liked My Friend Whale though, and its a great starter to discussing environmental issues if the kid is ready for it I guess. One of the titles we're keeping shelved is "Where the Wild Things Are". Its the stuff of nightmares!

  2. MamaJ,
    We initially thought of shelving "Where the Wild Things Are" and did for a while but Evan found it and decided the adventures in it were cool so we've taken to reading it even though Packrat and myself don't like it much.