Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Pickles the Fire Cat Has a Secret

Mama and I like to find those books to read to 3B that expose him to the diversity that we find so beautiful in life. He's growing up in the 'burbs right now, so we make sure to read him books about city life, small town life, and nature. He's growing up back east and down south right now, so we make sure to read him books about out west and up north. He's too young to have voiced his own gender and sexuality identity, so we make sure to read him books about boys, girls, and what lies between as well as books about being gay, straight, and what lies between--well, we would if we could find them, that is.

Our shelves have a fair number of books on gender and sexuality, especially those filled with Mama's books from the classes she took for her Women's Studies master's degree and from her nanosecond-long tenure at the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, but there aren't many children's books on those topics. Rather, we thought that there weren't.

I'm sure that this news comes as no surprise to parents who have already read The Fire Cat, but as I was just reading it to 3B, it occurred to me that Pickles is gay, which is deliciously subversive for such a popular book that was written in 1960.

How do I know? Let's review what we learn about Pickles:

  • He chases all the pussies from his yard.
  • He starts off living all by himself in a barrel, but comes out of the barrel to live with a group of firemen. (This plot is not too surprising, since the initial title was "Pickles the YMCA Cat.")
  • Pickles loves firemen. Say what you want about stereotypes, but check with Steve at the Hygiene Chronicles before you do. (Also, you must check his compare-and-contrast photo essay about the trip to the firehouse, "The Fireman I Got vs. The Fireman I Wanted.")
  • Pickles has big paws. This may not make him a gay cat, but it will probably make him a popular gay cat.
And then there's this passage:
"My goodness, Pickles," said Joe [the fireman], "what big paws you have!"
Pickles looked at Joe and said the one word he could say: "MEOW!"
And Joe could see that Pickles wanted something very much.
Next we'll answer the age-old question: Is the Runaway Bunny a draft dodger? If so, does his mother represent an accomplice, helping him over the border into Canada; an authority figure, chasing down and busting him; or something else? Was this text the inspiration for Springsteen's Highway Patrolman, as is so often rumored?

Please read the whole text before the next class.


  1. Yep it's true. Pickles is one of us. We've been recruiting him for years and finally he decided to become one of us.

    Next on our list; The Pokey Little Puppy. There's just something about that name that intriques us. Woof!

    (Thanks for the shout out-LOL)

  2. HA - so funny! Sounds like I need to get my hands on some children's books!

  3. Anonymous9:31 AM

    Dude...Get some sleep!

  4. Anonymous3:42 PM

    Holy. Crap.

  5. oooh! subversive like those DANGED Teletubbies!

  6. It's actually: Run Away, Bunny!
    That's one controlling Mama.

  7. Anonymous8:34 AM

    I think I need to hear a fireman's interpretation of the text. Does anyone have a cat suit?

  8. Anonymous12:28 PM

    Somehow I fear this isn't a parody. Well, if you get to feel progressive while your kid gets a great book, it's a win-win, I guess.

  9. Marvelous! A favorite book from my childhood with a subversive pro-equality agenda! And I never realized it before...Too busy learning to walk, I suppose.

  10. Oh well I will need to give this a read