Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Books we wish we had

Some of 3B's books are dreadfully banal, attempting to demonstrate good habits through the characters they portray. They include clunky, awkward, and ugly pages designed to prompt us to say things like, "Look, the cows and the sheep don't pinch their mommy and daddy." Or "Do you see the cats brushing their teeth?" (Although 3B loves brushing his teeth, it's more because he's been soothed by it since three months, when he started teething, than as a result of any picture in a book.)

Of course, these have somehow become some of 3B's favorite books. To his credit, he also loves, loves, loves the old kids books that I grew up with that Sisters #1 & 2 and Brother #2 sent from Mom's house last time they were there. Those illustrations are tiny, durable works of art, and the text is carefully crafted and edited, making for precious jewels of books rather than the slapdash asinine crap that passes as baby brainfood these days.

3B also loves books of photos, many of which are filled with pages of photos of smiling kids doing things like eating with their bibs laying neatly around their necks, rather than torn off and flung down on the floor. And, seriously, how did they get that picture? I heard they had to sew the bib onto the kid's onesie and duct tape the onesie to the kid . . . does that work? Do you know where our duct tape is?

I appreciate the attempts that these books make to help us by modeling desirable behavior, but these books are clearly produced by committees, not by actual parents, because they are far too basic and sterile in their messages. To help these committees sharpen their messages and produce useful books, I have drafted this list of role model behavior that I would like to see modeled in kids books, although I believe in showing consequences as an effective deterrent:
  • Look, the cat played with the knobs on the stove and burst into flames. Owwie.
  • See the parrot who dropped his toy into the toilet and got flushed with his toy down the toilet and out to sea. Oopsie.
  • Here's a dog who played with the heavy drawers in the kitchen and broke all the fingers on his hand. His name is now Lefty.
  • Look, the monkey has become thinner than his shadow because he refuses to sit down in his high chair, which is the only place he'll eat. His name is Slim, and he will disappear tomorrow if he doesn't sit down and eat something today. Right now.
  • See the rabbit who rolls off his changing pad before his butt is wiped off and scrambles away and bounces around the house. See him next to Cinderella, scrubbing poop off of the floors at midnight? Scrub, little bunny, scrub!
  • Here's the hyena who insisted on standing up in the bathtub and stretching across the room to grab his toothbrush, causing him to lose his perilous footing in the tub, at which point he fell behind the toilet and rolled under the sink cabinet, never to see his parents again. Very sad. If only he'd listened to his parents when they told him to be careful in the tub, he wouldn't be an orphan now.
  • Look, the billy goat filled up the hair-rinsing bucket with bathwater, poured it down his throat, and then hacked, gagged, and barfed his way through the rest of bathtime. Barf, billy goat, barf!
Really, would something more concrete like these examples be so hard to include?

How about you, my six loyal readers, anything that you would like for the authors of kids books to model in their art or stories?

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  1. OMG you are sick & twisted, and wickedly funny.

    Those really made me laugh this morning!

  2. Anonymous10:58 AM


    We don't quite have the reading comprehension to really worry about these things yet, but the one that always gets me is in the going to bed book. I'm down with taking a bath, putting on pjs, and brushing our teeth. But what's with the part where they exercise after all that? If Jack hops out of his snuggly bed in a couple years to do jumping jacks, I'm going to be majorly ticked at Sandra Boynton.

  3. LP: Glad I could make you laugh. But seriously, let me know when you find these books.

    Christy: Exercise? Do I always skip those pages, or are you not speaking of Pajama Time!? I'm always wondering why we're supposed to yell "Pajama time!" on the last page, when I thought we were slowly quieting down through the rest of the book . . . only to shout it three times on the last page, to give him one last scare before bedtime.

  4. Look at the little lion cubs playing quietly on the living room floor. Suddenly, they let out their most piercing, high-pitched roars! Look at the mama and papa lions -- their heads exploded! Now the cubs are scrubbing the blood off the floor and go live at the evil vulture's orphanage. Poor cubs.

    See the little kitten, clawing and scratching the mama kitten while she tries to drop the kitten off at Little Kits Daycare? The mama cat never got to do her work that day, and so the little kitten has no kibble and the mama cat is extremely grumpy. Poor, sad little kitten.

  5. Henitsirk: Perfect description of the random scream of terror--the terror being felt by the parents, since the kids are just doing it to exercise their vocal cords or call in all dogs in a 10-mile radius. As for that second book, gee, how's your work week going?

  6. Anonymous7:57 PM

    I have nuthin' but I'd SURE love to see some illustrations :-)

  7. Look at the little bunny text her friends. Watch at the little bunny update her myspace. See the little bunny IM on MSN. Oopsie, the bunny flips burgers instead of going to college. Watch her parents nod sadly.

    See the door open. See the dog go out. See the door close. See the dog want to come in. See the door open. See the dog come in. See the door close. See the dog want to go out. Repeat ten times during any meal. See the dog stay out.

    Oh, how the monkey plays on the swings. See the monkey play tag. The monkey loves to swing on the bars. Watch the monkey chase his friends all around the park. See the sad monkey who wore out half way through his race. Maybe next time little monkey should listen to Mama.

  8. CAGirl: LOL. I suppose that rather than reading them, I could just come out there and see them in action, right? That second one almost makes me glad we don't have a yard rather than our seven-story elevator ride. Almost.

  9. I was just unpacking books, and I found lots that you and 3B would enjoy. Classics like Little Black Sambo which are impossible to find anymore live on my shelf. Does 3B have a copy of Ferdinand yet? Drop in sometime and we can do some great reading.