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SproutMamaK

Children's Stories Made Horrific - Curious George

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One of my favorite authors reposted this today. I don't really know what to say about it, except that the title is certainly accurate, albeit not in a horror-movie kind of way. I thought someone here might appreciate it as well; it's very... haunting, I suppose.

 

http://the-toast.net/2015/11/02/childrens-stories-made-horrific-curious-george/

 

There are a lot of other stories on the site, but this one stood out to me. Many are worth a read if you've got some time, though!

Edited by SproutMamaK
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I couldn't even finish Curious George... that was uncomfortable reading to say the least.

 

Babar was always  horrific though.

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And the point of the rewrites is......?

 

????

 

I don't understand why someone would take a fun little kid's story and do this....

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The original of Curious George always made me uncomfortable.  So did Rudolph, Ozma of Oz, Rainbow Fish, and the Giving Tree.  They just seemed to promote really bad ideas:

 

Curious George - kidnapping, smuggling, animal abuse.

Rudolph - bullying is okay and sanctioned.

Ozma - You find out the Wizard killed her father by drowning him and then having her changed into a boy/slave so that he could rule.

Rainbow Fish - Ew.  He wants friends so he basically skins himself.

The Giving Tree - the tree commits assisted suicide for a selfish brat.

 

I read through the first story on the linked site.  Crazy.  I wouldn't have though CG needed any editing to make it into a horror story. LOL

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Yeah, that was weird.  Seems like someone has too much time on his/her hands.

 

I loved Curious George as a kid.  It never scared me.  But recently I was reading it, and I thought, "wow, this would never fly with a lot of parents today."  That's OK, kids don't think the same way as parents.  It's all good.  As far as I know, no child abductions etc. have been traced back to the reading of Curious George.

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And the point of the rewrites is......?

 

????

 

I don't understand why someone would take a fun little kid's story and do this....

 

1. Curious George was never a "fun little kid's story". The Man in the Yellow Hat is a poacher (at best - given that George is the main character, and portrayed as somewhat smarter than the average non-human ape, kidnapper may be the better word here) and nobody cares. He's also amazingly irresponsible.

 

2. Many people enjoy playing with literature in this way, or reading other's takes on literature. If that's not your thing, nobody is forcing you to read it.

 

Yeah, that was weird.  Seems like someone has too much time on his/her hands.

 

Do you realize you've made nearly 19,000 posts here? I'm just saying, I wouldn't question other people's hobbies. (Actually, I think she gets paid to write those? So I really wouldn't question it.)

Edited by Tanaqui
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Curious George has always been horrific, but I didn't see it until I was older and hopefully a little wiser.

 

Maybe the rewritten stories will help people be more conscious of exactly what they're reading to children.

 

Very interesting, SproutMamaK. Thanks for sharing.

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That was disturbing.  Although, I do remember reading curious george with my kids and explaining that the man in the yellow hat is a poacher.  And what poaching is and why one should not steal from the jungle just because you want something.

Edited by kewb

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When I first saw your post, and the site's title, I thought it might be sort of The Onion for Caldecott readers. I smiled, thinking my oldest sarcastic child would love it.

 

But then I started reading. Couldn't get halfway through George. That was so not funny. Not even macabrely funny like I expected.

 

Such a great premise, but disappointing.

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Overly literal interpretation of children's books ignore the central messages that the authors were trying to convey.

 

Curious George is about curiosity - how it it can lead to learning new things but how it can also get little monkeys (or toddlers) into trouble.  It also teaches a lot of lessons about helpfulness. 

 

There are reasons that these books are popular in countries around the world and have endured for so long. 

 

 

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The original of Curious George always made me uncomfortable.  So did Rudolph, Ozma of Oz, Rainbow Fish, and the Giving Tree.  They just seemed to promote really bad ideas:

 

Curious George - kidnapping, smuggling, animal abuse.

Rudolph - bullying is okay and sanctioned.

Ozma - You find out the Wizard killed her father by drowning him and then having her changed into a boy/slave so that he could rule.

Rainbow Fish - Ew.  He wants friends so he basically skins himself.

The Giving Tree - the tree commits assisted suicide for a selfish brat.

 

I read through the first story on the linked site.  Crazy.  I wouldn't have though CG needed any editing to make it into a horror story. LOL

 

and george is *always* getting into mischief and causing trouble - and NEVER is held responsible.  I actually had to ban it becasue it was having such a horrible influence on my aspie.  (I never paid much attention before, because I didn't use it with my olders kids - but someone gave him one.)

fully agree with rainbow fish - and he's made to feel guilty (re: bullied) for having beautiful scales, and that he's selfish if he keeps them. - so he skins himself so people will like him.  not a lesson I want my kids to have. . . . .

agree about rudolph

not very familiar with the others.

Edited by gardenmom5
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Well, I always thought that the man with the yellow hat was a pedophile (joke), but I think a lot of people forget or don't know that Curious George's author and his wife were jews who fled from the Nazi occupation of Paris with the illustrations that would become the Curious George books. So, I think many of the adventures and dark tones in the books were influenced by their experiences. It was a dark time for the world, and,these book reflect that. I saved these books for when ds12 was a little older so I could teach the history that influenced the authors.

 

http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2011/august/curious-george-unveils-tale-of-holocaust-survival/?mobile=false

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Wow, this idea kind of flies in the face of all I've taught my kids about critical thinking while reading (at least for history sources). I am about to leave and didn't read the entirety of the link, but maybe this is just in regard to fiction?

 

Very interesting. I will have to read and come back to this conversation.

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The original of Curious George always made me uncomfortable.  So did Rudolph, Ozma of Oz, Rainbow Fish, and the Giving Tree.  They just seemed to promote really bad ideas:

 

Curious George - kidnapping, smuggling, animal abuse.

Rudolph - bullying is okay and sanctioned.

Ozma - You find out the Wizard killed her father by drowning him and then having her changed into a boy/slave so that he could rule.

Rainbow Fish - Ew.  He wants friends so he basically skins himself.

The Giving Tree - the tree commits assisted suicide for a selfish brat.

 

I read through the first story on the linked site.  Crazy.  I wouldn't have though CG needed any editing to make it into a horror story. LOL

I like Tico & the Golden Wings so much better than the Rainbow Fish -- it gets the message across much better, without the icky subtext. 

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I'm writing a novel and I'd be quite upset if someone else thought they knew what the theme was and my reasons for writing it better than me.

Edited by HoppyTheToad
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Overly literal interpretation of children's books ignore the central messages that the authors were trying to convey.

 

Curious George is about curiosity - how it it can lead to learning new things but how it can also get little monkeys (or toddlers) into trouble.  It also teaches a lot of lessons about helpfulness. 

 

There are reasons that these books are popular in countries around the world and have endured for so long. 

 

In the case of Curious George, it's not that I don't understand or acknowledge the messages the authors were trying to convey. It's that I believe the tacit approval of poaching outweighs any benefit the book might have. (And, honestly, I don't care for the constant troublemaking with few consequences, anyway.) 

 

I was blessed to have parents that read me many, many books as a child. Because I liked animals, a lot of those books were about circuses and zoos. I accepted without question ideas about the treatment of animals that I now know to be very wrong. Obviously those ideas weren't picked up only from books, but the books certainly helped normalize things like forcing elephants to perform silly tricks, continually moving lions and tigers around the country in tiny cages, and separating mother and baby animals. When I read stories that include those things to my daughter, I point them out. We talk about them. As a result, she is more aware of and sensitive to animal cruelty than I was even as a young adult.

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I'm writing a novel and I'd be quite upset if someone else thought they knew what the theme was and my reasons for writing it better than Me.

 

*shrugs*

 

Then you'd better not publish it, because the readers will come to their own interpretations and understanding of your work, and you can't actually go to all their houses and make them stop doing that.

 

And you wouldn't want to, either. Re-interpreting art is something humans *do*. Look at the Illiad! Do we seriously think Homer intended for us to consider the Trojans the heroes? Yeah, right. But that doesn't make The Aeneid an exercise in Doin' It Rong. It's just Virgil's interpretation of the source material.

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I thought the man with the yellow hat was doing his job when he captured Curious George.  Do we know for a fact that it was illegal at that time and place for him to take whatever kind of primate CG was?

 

I'm glad I grew up in a simpler time.  Although I was delighted by the Curious George story, it didn't cause me to grow into a poacher.

 

The Babar story did directly address poaching though.  I liked Babar too.

Edited by SKL
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I'm glad I grew up in a simpler time.

 

When mama apes couldn't let their little ones free range in the jungle without some stranger walking off with them. STRANGER DANGER! STRANGER DANGER!

 

The Babar story did directly address poaching though.  I liked Babar too.

 

Gotta say, that's the most imperialist picture book I've ever read.

 

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LOL.  See, I read those books when I was a little girl and probably took from them the intended messages.  They were written for children, not political science majors.

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Oh, and I also read Little Black Sambo, which is a good thing, because at least I know what people are talking about when they say it wasn't a very good idea for a kiddy book.

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They were written for children, not political science majors.

 

I don't understand this. I mean, I really don't.

 

Children, as you note, aren't really able to filter out the underlying messages in what they read. Shouldn't you help them? In the same way that, as they get older, you point out the ads for alcohol and show them that just because the ad is selling the idea "drink our booze, it will make you happy and social and fun at parties!" that doesn't mean the message is true, or that just because the ad for Axe body spray says "use our product, and you'll smell so good, women will throw themselves at you!" it doesn't mean that this is a good way to view sex?

 

Oh, and I also read Little Black Sambo, which is a good thing, because at least I know what people are talking about when they say it wasn't a very good idea for a kiddy book.

 

Meh. The story there isn't really racist, it's tied to some unfortunate names and imagery. If you like the story, there are at least two modernized versions you can try. There's "The Story of Little Baba-Ji", which just updated the illustrations and changed the names, and there's "Sam and the Tigers", which is vastly superior and much funnier.

 

There's also another one set in, like, Minnesota, with a white girl (and wolves that turn into maple syrup rather than tigers that become butter), but I can't recall the title. They don't openly cop to their source material, anyway, so I was a little disappointed in it when I read it.

Edited by Tanaqui
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Yeesh, neither I nor the author are saying Curious George is an evil book, or that this is the correct interpretation of it. I loved this story, AND I (and my kids) love the original Curious George, it's not one or the other. This is simply an interesting take on it that provides some well-placed and well-phrased, if depressingly truthful, insights along the way. It's not a critique or commentary on the original book.

Edited by SproutMamaK
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Are some people saying kiddy books should be censored?

 

An interesting question, if you're not just stirring the pot.

 

First, I think ALL of us use some censorship with young children of the picture book age. We don't just let them browse our secret Gor collection, even if they can read really well. Well, I guess if we did it wouldn't be a secret collection. (That link is totally worksafe, btw.)

 

And even if we have an extremely open and liberal policy towards reading material (liberal here meaning "allowing most books the child likes without worrying too much about appropriateness" rather than "aligned with liberal social and political values"), we all draw the line at the 500th rendition of "The Princess and the Potty". (Or "Dora and the Marketing Craze" or "Pat the Bunny" or whatever book it is you're DONE WITH.) If you don't like a book, you won't buy it or take it out from the library, and if you have it anyway you will read it as infrequently as you can manage. Who among us hasn't hidden a book from our child because we couldn't take reading it one more time?

 

So let's say you have in your collection a book that you've identified as problematic. You don't dislike it because of it's awful artwork or tortured rhyme scheme or boring storyline, you dislike it because you feel it teaches something bad. Maybe you think Love You Forever is creepy, or Rainbow Fish sends a bad message about friendship, or And Tango Makes Three is too gay.

 

You can choose at this point not to read the book to your child. That is one option. Alternatively, you can use the book as a teaching tool, showing your child how to analyze the media around them. (That option is usually the one you choose when it's a book you loved as a child but have mixed feelings on now.)

 

Upthread you mentioned something about intended messages. I want to address that a second time. I think unintended messages are much more important than the obvious ones.

 

When your child reads Babar, it is easy for her to say "That's silly! Elephants can't wear clothes! And they don't have kings!"

 

It's much harder for her to say "Wait. So he only became king because he acts like a human? Don't the elephants value their own culture and their own customs? Is this book saying that being a human - and a European human, at that! - is better than being an elephant? Should other people who don't wear clothes or live in cities aspire to act like this? Isn't there anything good in their own societies?"

 

That message is most definitely in the book, but it's hidden. When you read, you absorb this message. But if you don't have it explicitly pointed out to you, you might never get a chance to question it.

Edited by Tanaqui
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Huh, I didn't find it disturbing, but I don't like reading a story and being asked how I would respond.  Just tell me the story and let me extrapolate any inference I choose.

 

I was a morbid kid though......things like this didn't disturb me.  

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Lame. I didn't read it all, not worth my time :). I guess we can take any children's story and turn it ugly? Don't really see the point behind it.

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I thought the man with the yellow hat was doing his job when he captured Curious George.  Do we know for a fact that it was illegal at that time and place for him to take whatever kind of primate CJ was?

 

I'm glad I grew up in a simpler time.  Although I was delighted by the Curious George story, it didn't cause me to grow into a poacher.

 

Since when does being legal (or just "doing one's job") make something moral?   :confused1:

 

The book didn't cause me to grow into a poacher, either. However, it and other books like it served to support what society taught me as a child: taking wild animals away from their families and homes is a perfectly acceptable and even desirable enterprise.

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Again, despite reading and enjoying Babar, I did not grow up thinking elephants (or dogs for that matter) would be happier with clothes on.  European or otherwise.  It was just a story.

 

I think that if people are using kiddy books to get across a political agenda (which definitely happens nowadays, not sure how much it influenced Babar and Curious George), that is the kind of book I will not buy for my kids.  I haven't seen many of those in the library, either.

 

I don't censor books generally.  But if I found a kiddy book in my house that really bugged me, I would donate it or throw it in the garbage.  I use other kinds of opportunities to talk to my kids about social issues.  There is no shortage of such opportunities.

Edited by SKL
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Since when does being legal (or just "doing one's job") make something moral?   :confused1:

 

The book didn't cause me to grow into a poacher, either. However, it and other books like it served to support what society taught me as a child: taking wild animals away from their families and homes is a perfectly acceptable and even desirable enterprise.

 

Well "poaching" is usually illegal, isn't it?  People have declared TMWTYH to clearly be a Poacher as if the author intentionally promoted poaching.

 

I also watched "Born Free" as a little kid, and probably lots of other things, and I also grew up in the real world, so as an adult it never ever crossed my mind to want to take a wild baby animal away from its mother.  (I also knew that a wild animal mom wouldn't take too kindly to that idea and it would be a very dangerous undertaking if I did try it.)

 

You have probably noticed that many kiddy book characters don't actually seem to have parents, or the parents' / adults' role is very minimized so that kids will focus on the kids' own adventures.  The simplification whereby George's parents' rights etc. were not dealt with is not unusual in a kiddy book.  It is also not clear that he was still under his mother's care in the jungle.

 

What about all the other fantasy books where people and animals are involved?  They must all have been poached!  How else does it happen that the animals are away from their wild animal parents?

Edited by SKL
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SKL, it's not about the literal elephants literally wearing clothes, it's about the promotion of Western rules on non-Western cultures. I didn't think I needed to spell out the subtext to that level. The elephants here are a stand in for "Africans, hey!" and the woman is colonialist France, helping those poor savages.

 

And while you may not have "thought elephants want to wear clothes", I will say that many of your comments on other posts about issues tangentially related to cultural imperialism suggest to me that you DID, in fact, absorb the unspoken subtext of Babar as a child.

 

Maybe you like to turn your brain off while reading, and that's fine. Sometimes I do too. However, that doesn't mean it's wrong NOT to do that - nor is it wrong to do that with the sort of books you disregard.

 

You have probably noticed that many kiddy book characters don't actually seem to have parents, or the parents' / adults' role is very minimized so that kids will focus on the kids' own adventures.

 

Much ink has been spilled about what message this teaches to children when parents are so frequently a. gone b. abusive or c. totally ineffectual.

 

Edited by Tanaqui
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Well, no, actually my point is that books can stand on their own, to be interpreted by the reader.  I don't think classic kiddy books are written for parents to explain to kids.  And I don't think picking apart kiddy books is the best way to teach kids about social issues.

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Well, no, actually my point is that books can stand on their own, to be interpreted by the reader.

 

And yet when we interpret it in ways you don't like, you say "It was just a story" or "Seems like someone has too much time on his/her hands" or "They were written for children, not political science majors".

 

What I really don't get is why you can't simply say that this is not an activity you enjoy or consider productive without actively seeking to disparage people who DO enjoy doing this or think it's a good use of time.

 

And I don't think I said "teaching kids about social issues". I'm talking about teaching kids to consume media critically and to think about the messages it is presenting.

 

I mean, most beer ads aren't written for me to pick apart either, but I sure as heck do it.

 

(Besides, it's a lot more fun to examine literature than to just read it and accept whatever it says without thinking too hard about it!)

Edited by Tanaqui
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Letting a kid read a book without a lot of commentary does not mean no critical thinking is involved.  Kids apply critical thinking themselves.  They may not remember it in detail 40+ years later.

Edited by SKL

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*shrugs*

 

In our household, we enjoy sharing our opinions on books and discussing them, and yes, pointing out the messages inherent in the story. Perhaps you don't. That's fine, you do you. Can't you do that without snarking everybody else who disagrees with you?

 

Edit: Also, edited previous comment, so you may want to re-read.

Edited by Tanaqui
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I find middle schoolers get quite a bit out of these old picture books. Dissecting them with their 'mature' minds and desire to look beyond the basic text gets them feeling successful before delving into themes and subtext of chapter books.

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The Winnie-the-Pooh made horrific is the best, if by best we mean taking a beloved children's story and turning into psychological horror. Aching woods. 

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The Winnie-the-Pooh made horrific is the best, if by best we mean taking a beloved children's story and turning into psychological horror. Aching woods. 

 

beloved stories about stuffed animals  . . .dudeling loved those. 

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It's been decades since I first read Should We Burn Babar? so taking a radical lens to picture books seems rather old hat in terms of children's lit crit.

 

It's bizarre to me that anyone would try to say that we should only accept the overt messages of the stories (curiosity is good, Elephants can run countries, etc.) and not the covert ones (it's okay to poach, non-whites can only run countries once they've been civilized in Europe, etc.). The covert ones are there. Sometimes there are reasons to read the book anyway... things aren't always black and white... I wouldn't do Babar but I did let my kids read George, though we talked about how wrong the poaching was at some point.

 

I thought the Frog and Toad one was just funny. Nothing deep, but, come on, they do sometimes have a dysfunctional relationship.

 

 

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I have a soft spot for The Toast. I feel like some of their pieces should annoy me but they just don't! Everyone loves Mallory, even when she tears apart your childhood memories.

 

Frog and Toad was pretty funny, especially if you've ever had a martyr in your life.

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*shrugs*

 

Then you'd better not publish it, because the readers will come to their own interpretations and understanding of your work, and you can't actually go to all their houses and make them stop doing that.

 

And you wouldn't want to, either. Re-interpreting art is something humans *do*. Look at the Illiad! Do we seriously think Homer intended for us to consider the Trojans the heroes? Yeah, right. But that doesn't make The Aeneid an exercise in Doin' It Rong. It's just Virgil's interpretation of the source material.

 

I understand that readers would have their own interpretations. In one of the linked articles, however, I thought an author related their experience of having readers tell him that he was wrong about the theme of the book he wrote. It's one thing for a reader to say, "Oh, I thought the theme was XYZ," but another for them to insist the author's interpretations of his own work are wrong.

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I actually love these retellings.  They're more *real* and they speak to me in a way that feels really.... satisfying.  That sounds weird.  

 

My kids read Curious George & Babar & the others & we do appreciate them on the surface.  But I love going back to them and finding the deaper meanings, that I do believe are either intended to be there or are there because the story cannot be told without it being there, even if it wasn't put there intentionally.  

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Well "poaching" is usually illegal, isn't it?  People have declared TMWTYH to clearly be a Poacher as if the author intentionally promoted poaching.

 

I also watched "Born Free" as a little kid, and probably lots of other things, and I also grew up in the real world, so as an adult it never ever crossed my mind to want to take a wild baby animal away from its mother.  (I also knew that a wild animal mom wouldn't take too kindly to that idea and it would be a very dangerous undertaking if I did try it.)

 

You have probably noticed that many kiddy book characters don't actually seem to have parents, or the parents' / adults' role is very minimized so that kids will focus on the kids' own adventures.  The simplification whereby George's parents' rights etc. were not dealt with is not unusual in a kiddy book.  It is also not clear that he was still under his mother's care in the jungle.

 

What about all the other fantasy books where people and animals are involved?  They must all have been poached!  How else does it happen that the animals are away from their wild animal parents?

 

My point was that illegal or legal, and no matter what you call it (poaching, animal cruelty, kidnapping), putting George in a sack and carting him off is wrong. 

 

I also grew up in the real world, a world in which my parents let me sit on the back of a circus elephant and took me to see Shamu at Sea World.  My parents didn't take baby animals away from their parents, but they (unthinkingly, I'm sure) supported the practice with their dollars.

 

Chimps who are orphaned are often cared for by other family members and would bond with the family group. The question of whether George was an orphan isn't really relevant.

 

Obviously not all books involving animals involve poaching. 

 

And that's all the time I have for this discussion tonight. I need to finish preparing co-op crafts for a bunch of 6- and 7-year-olds. No animals will be harmed in the making of the dioramas.  ;)

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The six swans one was pretty good and had some depth.

 

I think they do a good job of articulating the things in the stories that give you pause or seem slightly wrong somehow.

 

This "She was beginning to learn the danger of silence, and that someone who wishes to hear a Yes will not go out of his way to listen for a No. "

 

Was great.

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