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George was kidnapped from the jungle and sold to a zoo


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I've been using the Mensa K-3 list to find books to read to my kid. So last night in bed I sent my kid to grab a book to read and he came back with Curious George. Great, I thought, this should be fun.

 

After about the second page I grew uncomfortable. Then more uncomfortable. Then I was rather disturbed.

 

When I saw Curious George on TV I just assumed that there was some sort of sob story behind how a monkey came to live in a NYC apartment with a man with a rather limited and monochromatic wardrobe. But no - George was tricked, stuffed in a sack, shipped off to a strange place, put in jail, and then placed in a zoo.

 

I have friends who work for the WWF. I feel sort of embarrassed.

 

I didn't say anything to my kid. I'll just quietly take the book back to the library tomorrow. When he's older we'll discuss the ethics of animals in captivity. I may email Mensa sometime and say that I'd like if they replaced this book with something else.

 

I'm just a bit shocked. When people say that motherhood teaches you things I didn't expect finding out things like this.  :001_unsure:

 

Is there a sequel or anything that mitigates the problem with this book? I just can't imagine why this storyline has had such staying power.

 

Ah well. I'll get over it. But just thought to give everyone a heads up.  :blush:

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In another book he climbed in someones window and painted a jungle on their wall. Everyone was so mad they chased him out of the building. He fell and broke his leg while running away. Some lady literally said, "That's what you get. Serves you right." Remember, these books were written in a different generation. (like most books) Feel free to skip this series. My kid and I sympathized with the monkey and said how horrible that lady was to say such a thing... and moved on. I kinda guess this happens when you read a lot of books.

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I have the original version written by the Reys in the 1940s/50s and the "newer" version which seems to be written in the late 1990's or early 2000's based on the copyright dates of the books. My kids have read all of them and love them. I think it is very interesting to see the differences between what was acceptable decades ago and what would never make it to press today. For instance, people smoking pipes and cigars in a children's book. The original version does show George being kidnapped and taken to America against his will and put in a zoo, but the newer version shows George stowing away on a ship (unbeknownst to the Man with the Yellow Hat) because he wants to follow the Man home to America. There is definitely a different feel to that story. My kids are only 6 but when they get older I think it will make for an interesting study about how children's books (and society in general) have changed over the decades. I've noticed this with a few other remakes of classics which have been "cleaned up" to be politically correct, too.

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There's a few of Rev. Awdry's original Thomas the Tank Engine stories that have "outdated" parts removed in more recent books. In the original story where a couple boys accidentally kick the brake off James and he goes flying solo down the track without a crew, the boys get whipped by their father after they get caught. That little tidbit is missing from the TV version and later books.

 

I can't stand Curious George but the kids love him, and most of the issues I have with it seem to go over their heads. Maybe not DS3, he seems to have about as much impulse control as that monkey on a sugar high.

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I prefer non-PC/non-Disneyified versions. They lead to far more interesting conversations than the illusion that life is sugar-coated. Real fairy tales can be quite gruesome, but there is something in there to be thought upon.

 
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I can't stand Curious George. That being said, the modern version of the series states that George was a stowaway or some such thing and he voluntarily followed the man with the yellow clothes - I saw it in a TV episode. I would never buy or borrow that series (new and old) for my child, but you can try the new version if the old version bothers you .

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Okay, maybe talking with aforementioned friends who work for WWF has colored my perspective, but for me this is not a PC issue.

 

Capturing wild animals and selling them to foreign collectors or zoos is NEVER okay.

 

I know that's the business model zoos had in the past, but they are now scrambling to make amends and heavily participate in wildlife (in the wild) conservation programs.

 

I'm glad there is a new edition that removes the highly unethical (and illegal) actions of the man. But um, why does George stowaway? Eh, can't say I'm very happy with a storyline that suggests that those living in jungles would do anything to live in NYC either.

 

I can't say I'm surprised that this wasn't considered a problem when it was published, but I don't understand why it has continued to stick around with such popularity.

 

8, I understand using books as-they-are to explore "hard" issues, but I don't think my 6yo is quite able to grasp the global issues in wildlife population and management. To him it's "just a story," but I have no idea how much he internalizes the message of "Hey, you see something in a foreign country you want? Just grab it and take it home with you. It's ok." So it's not something I can discuss with him right now, but I can't just hand-wave it away either. If I had known that this is what the book was about I would have skipped it until he was much older.

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Have you read The Giving Tree yet? That book really makes me uncomfortable!

 

No. I've seen it, but for whatever reason never picked it up.

 

First Things had a whole Symposium concerning it's interpretation? Oh. Oh, dear.  :001_huh:

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Okay, maybe talking with aforementioned friends who work for WWF has colored my perspective, but for me this is not a PC issue.

 

Capturing wild animals and selling them to foreign collectors or zoos is NEVER okay.

 

I know that's the business model zoos had in the past, but they are now scrambling to make amends and heavily participate in wildlife (in the wild) conservation programs.

 

I'm glad there is a new edition that removes the highly unethical (and illegal) actions of the man. But um, why does George stowaway? Eh, can't say I'm very happy with a storyline that suggests that those living in jungles would do anything to live in NYC either.

 

I can't say I'm surprised that this wasn't considered a problem when it was published, but I don't understand why it has continued to stick around with such popularity.

 

8, I understand using books as-they-are to explore "hard" issues, but I don't think my 6yo is quite able to grasp the global issues in wildlife population and management. To him it's "just a story," but I have no idea how much he internalizes the message of "Hey, you see something in a foreign country you want? Just grab it and take it home with you. It's ok." So it's not something I can discuss with him right now, but I can't just hand-wave it away either. If I had known that this is what the book was about I would have skipped it until he was much older.

He is a very curious monkey so he follows the yellow hat!

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My toddlers have all loved Curious George, and the non-PC stuff pretty much goes over their heads. The message that I don't love is that it's okay to do things that cause trouble, as long as you are reallllllly sorry and do something to make up for the trouble, because then everyone will forgive you and be happy with you. Like, the one where George goes to the animal shelter -- he lets all the puppies out, and they get lost, and when he finds the last one (that's only missing because HE let it out!), they give him a puppy to take home. How about some sort of teaching about how he really shouldn't mess with things that aren't his??

 

But alas, I still have some fondness for the curious little monkey, even if he is far more curious than any of my toddlers combined (and I've had at least one that rates awfully high on the curious scale). ;)

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I disagree.   I have no more problem of an issue discussing George than discussing why Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery or why I get mad at the news.

 

They certainly don't need to understand completely or the full ramifications, just enough to know that people make wrong/sinful decisions and those decisions impact the life and well-being of others.   It doesn't have to be a complicated explanation.   I actually want my kids to learn to question what they read early on so they never simply accept what they are told or read simply because.  

 

ETA:  and I agree with the previous poster that one of the biggest sources of discussion for us comes from the consequences of George's behaviors, especially when the consequence is a reward for poor behavior.

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I think it's politically correct in that it's an attitude that has changed. At the time of the original book, people thought it was okay to take animals out of the wild like that. It wasn't right then either, but we have a better view. I felt fine saying that to my kids - just like I felt fine saying, "Haha, they thought it was okay to smoke back then!" at the scene where George smokes a pipe.

 

But I do think there's a difference between some of the more recent stories like George and actual old fairy tales, myths, and so forth. I do tend to seek out original versions of those. I do think it's very worth reading about the dark side of things, the bad things, and so forth. But the deeper messages in some older picture books are so racist and sexist, and in such a more subtle way (at least from a child's limited knowledge), and without enough other redeeming value for me to read them unless they've been changed. Like I said, I found it easy enough to say, "Back then they thought it was okay to remove animals from the wild." But, to bring in my Babar example, it's a lot harder to explain to a four year old that Babar "civilizing" the other elephants is kind of a bad message.

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I loathe the message in The Rainbow Fish (for one) and have no idea why it's so popular. Coming across messages you disagree with really isn't an uncommon issue when sharing children's literature with your kids, especially when it's from a different generation. If a topic comes up in a book that bothers me, I talk about it with my kids. I felt weird when I read Little House in the Big Woods to my older DD when I was homeschooling her in kindergarten because Ma and other characters had such racist views. (I think I even posted about my concern here.) We talked about it and I told DD why I thought it was wrong of Ma to say those things (or for anyone to shame Laura for crying when she thought her dog had died) and kept reading. I loved the series as a kid and didn't even remember the parts that bothered me when I read it as an adult.

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I prefer non-PC/non-Disneyified versions of stories. They lead to far more interesting conversations than the illusion that life is sugar-coated. Real fairy tales can be quite gruesome, but there is something in there to be thought upon.

 
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No one has even brought up the one most obnoxious fact (especially given the emphasis in the updated version and TV show on teaching science):

 

As drawn, George is very obviously NOT a monkey. He's no more a monkey than is the Man in the Yellow Hat. He's clearly a juvenile chimpanzee or bonobo. Which implies, especially in the original 1940's version, that poachers had probably killed his mother and he was orphaned--in which case capturing him saved his life, as a young chimp is about as well equipped to survive alone in the wild as a human child.

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It doesn't really bother me, because I don't see George as a "real" monkey. He is a fictional animal character that is given many human characteristics (I can't think of the literary term for that off the top of my head). In the stories, he is more human than animal. A real monkey is not going to go to a hospital with children to have something removed from his stomach, or ride a bike to deliver newspapers.

 

My DS and I just finished reading a Hank the Cowdog book where Hank escapes from a dog pound and the worker chases after him and tries to run him down with his truck. While that would be horrible if something like that happened to a dog in real life, we thought the story was funny.

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I loathe the message in The Rainbow Fish (for one) and have no idea why it's so popular. 

 

Yeah, I think I read that one once, said, "What a horrible message!" to the kids, and then told them I didn't particular want to read it again.

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I think it's politically correct in that it's an attitude that has changed. At the time of the original book, people thought it was okay to take animals out of the wild like that. It wasn't right then either, but we have a better view. I felt fine saying that to my kids - just like I felt fine saying, "Haha, they thought it was okay to smoke back then!" at the scene where George smokes a pipe.

 

This.  Shrug.  Discuss and move on.  I'm sure OP that you'll come across things that make you uncomfortable in many things you read to your kids.  I mean, ancient Romans thought gladiators fighting to the death or being killed by animals was great entertainment.  I'm guessing you'll be reading about that with your kids at some point.  :D

 

And I concur that I like Curious George much better than Babar!  But for some reason the kids love Babar too...

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I've never thought about being bothered by it. Things were different when the book was written. If every book was sanitized and made to align with current values reading wouldn't be nearly as interesting.

 

I don't intend this to be anything against the person who wrote the original post but what I find more disturbing than books with outdated themes is that people want books with plot lines or characters that are no longer considered politically correct to be 'fixed'. The term 'thought police' comes to mind.

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Ok. I'm...a bit flabbergasted.

 

This is not a PC-issue. This is a morality issue.

 

I do not want to read my kid books which glorify something that I find immoral. I don't see how this makes me guilty of censorship.

 

And yes, it is immoral. I'm sorta shocked that no one else seems to be picking up on that? I guess the issue of wildlife management isn't something that people generally give a lot of thought to, but still. I'm sure there's a kids book out there about daring and adventurous ivory hunters. Would you read that to your kid for fun?

 

And it's not like the Yellow Hat Man's actions are just a blip in the storyline of the book. It is the book. The whole book revolves around Yellow Hat selling George to a zoo. George gets in trouble, yes, but only because he is thrust into a completely different culture that he doesn't understand. He gets thrown in jail for accidentally dialing 911. But it turns out for the best because....he gives all the other (very happy) animals in the zoo a balloon? This is not okay.

 

Yellow Hat is a bad man. Period. How do I explain that to my kid who has randomly watched Curious George on PBS for the past three years because he thought it was a bit cute and funny? I feel like I realized I've been mugged - by a metanarrative I never even realized was there.

 

I discussed this issue with my husband over dinner (turns out he read this book with our kid a few nights ago) and he was also very annoyed by the. Not just by the whole kidnapping and zoo thing but the lines that imply that George missed the jungle, but that's okay, because now he was in a better place. The way it was presented, and the way it unfolded in the book, made my husband believe that George signifies a, uh, non-animal archetype. I can definitely see that. Ugh, definitely not the message we want to be telling our kid.

 

FTR, I have no problem reading my kid "advanced" or "mature" things. The other day we started a rather barely-edited version of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I can deal with characters who occasionally do something I think is problematic. But a story that does nothing but advance viewpoints that I think are wrong? No, not at this point.

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But what is PC if not how our morality has changed?  At the time of the book, it wasn't seen as immoral.  Now it is seen as immoral.  I'm not trying to be a total moral relativist, and I agree it was wrong then as well.  I just think it wasn't seen as bad then.

 

But I also don't have a strong negative reaction to the term "politically correct."  I think it's fine when speech is changed to be politically correct.  It should be.  Times change and so should the way we discuss issues.  In terms of stories, I don't love when stories are changed usually...  I tend to think you either tell it like it is or you just embrace a different set of stories.  Not all stories need to survive into the next age.  Maybe, at least in your view, this is one that can go.  I don't necessarily disagree.  George isn't one of my favorites by far.

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Have you read The Giving Tree yet? That book really makes me uncomfortable!

I can see why it makes you uncomfortable. The thoughtlessness of the man amd the doormat attitude of the tree bug me now as an adult.

 

But as a kid? I LOVED that book. It brought me to tears every time I read it, because the tree loved him so much. She gave everything to him. And even when she had nothing left to give, she had just what he needed and they were happy together. It was so comforting to see that kind of unselfish, unconditional love when I was young.

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Curious George (and Babar) are so absurd that it never occurred to me to think they might be conveying any kind of messages at all, good or bad. For pete's sake, a monkey gets put in a dungeon for prank-dialing 911. A baby elephant copes with grief by visiting a Parisian department store conveniently near the jungle and buying a fashionable suit. I think they're excellent preparation for reading Beckett or Murakami later on.

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Curious George (and Babar) are so absurd that it never occurred to me to think they might be conveying any kind of messages at all, good or bad. For pete's sake, a monkey gets put in a dungeon for prank-dialing 911. A baby elephant copes with grief by visiting a Parisian department store conveniently near the jungle and buying a fashionable suit. I think they're excellent preparation for reading Beckett or Murakami later on.

 

But Beckett and Murakami have messages, even in the midst of the absurd.  I think the messages are there.  I'm never sure how much it really filters down to the kids though.  While I find Babar rather offensive, I don't think reading Babar to your kids turns them into imperialists any more than reading Narnia turns kids into Christians.  But that doesn't mean the messages aren't there.

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On that same reading list is Bedtime for Frances. It was a really cute book right up until the point where the parents threatened to spank Frances. My son had no idea what that meant. I tried to explain and he was horrified.

 

With Curious George, he instantly commented about kidnapping George being a bad thing. He also pointed out that smoking was bad when we got to the part with the pipe. But those were things he already knew, so he put them aside and enjoyed the story. George's antics are what he remembers from the book. The one thing he remembers from Bedtime for Frances is that some parents hit their children. :glare:

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I've never thought about being bothered by it. Things were different when the book was written. If every book was sanitized and made to align with current values reading wouldn't be nearly as interesting.

 

I don't intend this to be anything against the person who wrote the original post but what I find more disturbing than books with outdated themes is that people want books with plot lines or characters that are no longer considered politically correct to be 'fixed'. The term 'thought police' comes to mind.

:iagree:

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Sarah, I was really struggling with literature awhile back, and always struggle a bit with it.The list of reasons why is SO long. I'll write more when I can respond from a computer. I'm testing whether I can at least post at all from my phone.

 

literature can be hard. Really hard.

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But what is PC if not how our morality has changed?  At the time of the book, it wasn't seen as immoral.  Now it is seen as immoral.  I'm not trying to be a total moral relativist, and I agree it was wrong then as well.  I just think it wasn't seen as bad then.

 

But I also don't have a strong negative reaction to the term "politically correct."  I think it's fine when speech is changed to be politically correct.  It should be.  Times change and so should the way we discuss issues.  In terms of stories, I don't love when stories are changed usually...  I tend to think you either tell it like it is or you just embrace a different set of stories.  Not all stories need to survive into the next age.  Maybe, at least in your view, this is one that can go.  I don't necessarily disagree.  George isn't one of my favorites by far.

 

 

To me PC is just a change in attitude. The smoking thing for one - it was a choice people made back then that was far more acceptable then than it is now. I just roll with it.

 

This isn't just a matter of choosing to smoke a pipe. This is glorifying poaching. The Man in the Yellow Hat is a poacher. George is a poached animal. The poaching of animals in Africa is still a huge problem. Poached monkeys being sold as pets is still a huge problem. It's illegal and immoral. Calling it just PC like smoking a pipe trivializes it.

 

 

I just found out that there is another new origin-myth for George. This time, instead of Yellow Hat being a poacher he's an archaeologist who steals artifacts for museums. *facepalm*

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Meh...no problem with George or Barbar. Have no problem with them being PC or not PC. I do have a major problem with the rewriting of children's books to make them PC though. What will happen in 20 yrs when todays PC changes to something else? More rewrite and then the books are not even the story they once were. I say leave the stories as written and discuss if something bothers you or your child. Changing the originals is a form of censorship in my mind and I am against censorship.

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PHEW! I installed Chrome and can post again!

 

Sarah  :grouphug:  and  :lol:

 

I think I get where you are coming from. I really don't know how to handle literature, and I think many other people also do not. In the past I've gotten so overwhelmed that I've tried going to both extreme ends of the spectrum: allowing everything, and allowing nothing.

 

I'm currently in this weird place of allowing everything, but not actually reading any of it, and in reality sticking to almost nothing but nonfiction. And even getting all worked up over the nonfiction. It's exhausting. There are days I even get worked up over encyclopedias, and they are some of the least offensive books on the planet.

 

I loved Curious George as a child, but I was just shocked when I read it recently. It really bothered me too. I forget who I was venting about it to, but they looked at me like I was nuts. The man in the yellow hat...IS a bad guy. 

 

Literature is just so exhausting. It's supposed to be fun, but it's often not to me. And some days I can handle it less than others days.

 

I was watching a movie with a friend a couple days ago, and got so worked up, that I was not just ruining the movie but the evening for my friend. I had to remember that it was just a story and not real. This wasn't a situation involving children or teaching, so the pressure on me to be responsible for anyone wasn't there.

 

But when it does come to impressionable children and students--I just don't have the answer. I don't know if there is an answer.

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To me PC is just a change in attitude. The smoking thing for one - it was a choice people made back then that was far more acceptable then than it is now. I just roll with it.

 

 

I think of most "PC" things as having to do with race and gender and our views of those.  I do think of those not just as changes in attitude, but in our fundamental view of what's right and wrong.  As in, it's wrong to use language that assumes women are less than men or subjugate to men.  And it was wrong to use it sixty years ago too.  But people did it.  And it was acceptable socially.  Now, it's not.  I think the smoking thing is a change in our morals as well.  Many people - a plurality of society - used to think it was okay.  Now it's not.  I'm not sure what morality is if not that change in attitude.

 

Regardless, I totally agree that poaching is wrong.  And was as wrong in 1941 as it is now.  It's just that I can see what when the book was written, it wasn't seen as deeply wrong.  It was a more common practice by legitimate zoos.

 

I think we read the Curious George original book maybe once or twice when my kids were little.  I noted the negative messages and dropped it.  The TV show was just getting started and we watched that a lot more.  Because it's not really about any of this - it's about science.  And it's kind of sweet.

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If this topic of primate "kidnapping" interests you, you might be interested in the 2013 Newbery Medal winner, The One and Only Ivan. It's a quick read (though it's not a picture book), and it's really good, based very loosely on the story of a real silverback gorilla.

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The book leaves me uncomfortable also, but I recognize that's because of how times have changed. I really don't feel that any sort of nefarious motives can be ascribed to the Reys. They were German Jews escaping Paris on homemade bicycles with little more than the clothes on their backs and this manuscript hours in advance of the Nazis, not WASP Americans looking back fondly on slave days. And the book in which Curious George was first introduced is about a giraffe who is sad because her friends and family have all been captured to be sold to zoos. In the book, George (then called Fifi), his mother and siblings have been left homeless by deforestation. The animals meet up, become friends, and help each other. It really wasn't an odd choice for material given that Rey grew up next to a zoo and at one point painted circus posters for a living.

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Yellow Hat is a bad man. Period. How do I explain that to my kid who has randomly watched Curious George on PBS for the past three years because he thought it was a bit cute and funny? I feel like I realized I've been mugged - by a metanarrative I never even realized was there.

 

 

I loved Curious George as a child, but I was just shocked when I read it recently. It really bothered me too. I forget who I was venting about it to, but they looked at me like I was nuts. The man in the yellow hat...IS a bad guy. 

The thing is, the man in the yellow hat wasn't a bad guy, not by the standards of his era.  He's quite typical of the adults from the 1940's.  How many guys brought home German lugers  as souvenirs from the war?  They weren't getting those from the German Army-Navy surplus store.  They were taking them off the guys they killed.  Everyone back home knew that and very few people had a problem with it.  People went big game hunting, just for the heads to put on the wall, and collected arrowheads at the National Parks.  No one thought twice about it.

 

When I read Curious George to my children, I used it as an opportunity to discuss that issue.  We have to be careful about judging people from other eras (or other cultures) using our standards.  We talked about how we would think he was a bad guy if he lived today and did what he did, but that because he lived when people thought and taught differently than now,  we can't say that he was bad and be fair.  Being a bad guy means choosing to do something you know is wrong.

 

It's come in very handy when we've needed to discuss why my grandma died of COPD, for instance.  Was she a bad person because she smoked?  (No.  She started smoking before they knew just how bad cigarettes were for you and got addicted before they knew addiction could happen.  She did eventually quit once she knew, but the damage was done.)

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The book leaves me uncomfortable also, but I recognize that's because of how times have changed. I really don't feel that any sort of nefarious motives can be ascribed to the Reys. They were German Jews escaping Paris on homemade bicycles with little more than the clothes on their backs and this manuscript hours in advance of the Nazis, not WASP Americans looking back fondly on slave days. And the book in which Curious George was first introduced is about a giraffe who is sad because her friends and family have all been captured to be sold to zoos. In the book, George (then called Fifi), his mother and siblings have been left homeless by deforestation. The animals meet up, become friends, and help each other. It really wasn't an odd choice for material given that Rey grew up next to a zoo and at one point painted circus posters for a living.

Thanks for this!

 

But yes.... you are looking at it thru the filter of today, and it offends you.

 

In light of what Kathryn posted, I'm thinking he was more than likely writing about something that bothered him, but was writing it in the only "PC" avenue available to him at the time. CHildren's lit. So perhaps he was writing it to the audience he knew that would one day change the practice? So kids could question their parents about why this was "right"?

 

Applying the filter of today against those who wrote in the past doesn't work. You will always be horrified by words and actions - but it was probably accepted back then. Hmmmm, reminds me of the whole bias in a history book thing - allowing your bias of now to change and alter what you write isn't reflecting the reality of then.

 

So I guess shelve it for now - and use it as an example of poaching when your son gets older, and then it becomes a teaching moment.

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To him it's "just a story," but I have no idea how much he internalizes the message of "Hey, you see something in a foreign country you want? Just grab it and take it home with you. It's ok."

I seriously doubt that reading some Curious George books will leave that as the lasting impression on a young child.

 

But then again, I have adopted internationally, and some people have accused me of doing just that, so maybe my morals are just skewed.

 

But I am a vegan! ;)

 

Seriously, though, I read a lot of books when I was a kid that would be considered horrendously socially bacward these days, and occasionally I think about that when my kids read them, but none of them scarred me for life. The issues that we as adults think are so glaring really don't register much with kids. And if they do, it's a good opportunity for discussion. But I think that we as parents overthink too much. I'm not seeking to surround my kids with only pictures of pristine ethics. My kids have to live in the real world, and they might as well understand that not everything is shiny happy while they are young enough to have our values reinforced to them.

 

Tara

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Literature is just so exhausting. It's supposed to be fun, but it's often not to me. And some days I can handle it less than others days.

 

 

But when it does come to impressionable children and students--I just don't have the answer. I don't know if there is an answer.

 

 

Literature is surprising like that, isn't it? Sometimes it makes me think "wow, ok, that's interesting" and other times it's "What the....is this frikkin for real?" Lol.

 

I just wish I knew in advance that this book was about poaching. I hate being blindsided by things like that at bedtime.

 

 

 The TV show was just getting started and we watched that a lot more.  Because it's not really about any of this - it's about science.  And it's kind of sweet.

 

 

See, now, that's the worst part about this for me. My kid doesn't really watch George much. But if I do see it now every time I see George I'll think "poached" and every time I see Yellow Hat I'll think "poacher." That sort of kills it for me, kwim? I wish I had never read the book, but what has been read can not be unread.

 

I hate Mensa(!). That is all.

 

If this topic of primate "kidnapping" interests you, you might be interested in the 2013 Newbery Medal winner, The One and Only Ivan. It's a quick read (though it's not a picture book), and it's really good, based very loosely on the story of a real silverback gorilla.

 

I vaguely remember that book being discussed a while back. Thanks for reminding me. I'll make sure to try to cycle it in at some point.

 

 

 

The book leaves me uncomfortable also, but I recognize that's because of how times have changed. I really don't feel that any sort of nefarious motives can be ascribed to the Reys. They were German Jews escaping Paris on homemade bicycles with little more than the clothes on their backs and this manuscript hours in advance of the Nazis, not WASP Americans looking back fondly on slave days. And the book in which Curious George was first introduced is about a giraffe who is sad because her friends and family have all been captured to be sold to zoos. In the book, George (then called Fifi), his mother and siblings have been left homeless by deforestation. The animals meet up, become friends, and help each other. It really wasn't an odd choice for material given that Rey grew up next to a zoo and at one point painted circus posters for a living.

 

Ok, but none of that is in this book. There is no giraffe. George is in a forest minding his own business. Yellow Hat sees George, wants him, so he takes him. Why is the American version so different? Did the publisher think a Teddy Roosevelt-esque character would be better for an American audience, and made the authors change the storyline? Something happened between the European and American rescension, and it's not for the better.

 

And, historically, zoos and circuses at that time were notorious for their mistreatment of animals. Saying that they were familiar with them doesn't mean they had any sense for animal welfare. Maybe quite the opposite.

 

I don't bother applying the blame to the authors personally. Authorial-intent here doesn't matter for bedtime reading for my 6yo. But I do reject the idea that they couldn't have been anti-African just because they were Jews. Humans don't usually work that way, unfortunately.

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The thing is, the man in the yellow hat wasn't a bad guy, not by the standards of his era.  He's quite typical of the adults from the 1940's.  How many guys brought home German lugers  as souvenirs from the war?  They weren't getting those from the German Army-Navy surplus store.  They were taking them off the guys they killed.  Everyone back home knew that and very few people had a problem with it.  People went big game hunting, just for the heads to put on the wall, and collected arrowheads at the National Parks.  No one thought twice about it.

 

When I read Curious George to my children, I used it as an opportunity to discuss that issue.  We have to be careful about judging people from other eras (or other cultures) using our standards.  We talked about how we would think he was a bad guy if he lived today and did what he did, but that because he lived when people thought and taught differently than now,  we can't say that he was bad and be fair.  Being a bad guy means choosing to do something you know is wrong.

 

It's come in very handy when we've needed to discuss why my grandma died of COPD, for instance.  Was she a bad person because she smoked?  (No.  She started smoking before they knew just how bad cigarettes were for you and got addicted before they knew addiction could happen.  She did eventually quit once she knew, but the damage was done.)

 

 

Thanks for this!

 

But yes.... you are looking at it thru the filter of today, and it offends you.

 

In light of what Kathryn posted, I'm thinking he was more than likely writing about something that bothered him, but was writing it in the only "PC" avenue available to him at the time. CHildren's lit. So perhaps he was writing it to the audience he knew that would one day change the practice? So kids could question their parents about why this was "right"?

 

Applying the filter of today against those who wrote in the past doesn't work. You will always be horrified by words and actions - but it was probably accepted back then. Hmmmm, reminds me of the whole bias in a history book thing - allowing your bias of now to change and alter what you write isn't reflecting the reality of then.

 

So I guess shelve it for now - and use it as an example of poaching when your son gets older, and then it becomes a teaching moment.

 

And here I thought I was the raging postmodernist on this board.  :blink:

 

Look. I understand the historical context of the original publication of the book perfectly well.

 

That's not what I am talking about.

 

I'm talking about the historical context of me reading the book to my 6yo earlier this week.

 

I wouldn't read my kid a book about treating black people as less than human, no matter when it was written. I wouldn't read my kid a book which talks describes Native Americans as being similar to animals, no matter when it was written. I wouldn't read my kid a book about how nice a European village was after all the Jews were shipped away, no matter when it written.

 

Unlike the above examples, poaching still exists and is a real and pressing problem. I can't just hand-wave it away as being "something wrong that people did way back when, when people just didn't know any better." They did know better, they do know better, and yet they do it anyways. They are doing it right now.

 

I may be something of a postmodernist, but since I am a Christian I do believe there are some universal ethics. That humans are called to express grace to the created world is one of them. So no, I don't want my kid to think that poaching was ever right.

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For the tv show, watch the 2006 Curious George movie first. It shows the man in the yellow hat as a museum worker who goes to the jungle to find an artifact. George befriends him there and later sneaks onto the ship without the man knowing. No poaching involved.

 

I agree with others that you likely won't scar your kid. The ones who notice will ask about it. Most won't notice, just as you obviously didn't when you were a kid. I did try to get newer CG books after reading the first old one though. The new ones were more in line with the tv show, and they were just plain more modern in attitudes (no smoking, etc.).

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Sarah, I was reading "Little House in the Big Woods" aloud to one of my African American students when I started reading a song that Pa was singing, and wanted to just cry. The saddest thing was the student telling me it was okay, and she was used to that kind of thing. I too HATE being blindsided at times that I have set aside as a safe time, free of teachings on the evil things.

 

Poaching goes beyond the declaration of human rights, but for many other issues, they all fall under general human rights. Often when we are reading, I'll just sadly say, "this is yet another human rights violation" and little more. Sometimes I'll check in with the student if they want to continue or drop the book.

 

As part of my main curriculum, I go over a children's book on the Declaration of Human Rights. I've found that generalizing instead of teaching about each type of violation is more effective and less traumatizing.

 

I'm thinking there might be some type of general animal rights document or something broad? Do you know of anything? Something that could be taught, and then when an animal abuse violation comes up in literature, just a sentence or two could be said to reference back to that document.

 

 

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