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Classic children's lit and modern parenting


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The only book I have every skipped is "bedtime for Francis" and that is because she gets threatened with a spanking. My children would have been genuinely upset at the idea of a child being hit by an adult, even if it was "just" a threat. They didn't know such a thing was possible until they were much older, and that is fine with me. 

 

So, call me the PC police all you like, I can live with it. 

 

 

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I think the people upset with Blueberries for Sal probably haven,t actually been blueberrying in Maine with a small child. There isn,t a bear in every blueberry patch every afternoon. Blueberry patches are relatively child friendly terrain. Visibility is pretty good, unlike thick woods. Poison things don,t tend to grow there. Sal is old enough not to put small rocks in her mouth. Her mother is going to feel relatively safe not watching her every second. When you berry with small children, you keep your eyes on the berries and keep track of your children by listening to them, hence the confusion with the baby bear. We, as a family, found the story entirely familiar and plausible, which is why it was a big hit. On the other hand, I found Corduroy, where a family goes to the laundomat, slightly scary as a child and then again as a mother. I suspect the people objecting to Blueberries for Sal are city mice, notcountry mice.

 

I bet Beatrix Potter would be objectionable lol.

 

If you want a dated children,s book, try the Rover Boys. My grandfather had the series growing up. I read them. So did my boys. Talk about lack of supervision! And maximum impact camping! And politically incorrect!

 

I think most of the upper elementary/middleschool books my sons read would be objectionable. Kim, Tom Sawyer, Captain,s Courageous, Little Men, Two Little Savagea, Anne of Green Gables, Treasure Island, swiss Family Robinson, ...

 

Nan

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. Oh my. I llove those books, but I've never seen the reviews.

We loved Good Dog Carl, too. The dog is a farm dog, the kind that would probably do a good job watching guarding a baby sleeping safely in a crib grin. I wouldn,t have left my babies to go shopping, but I certainly let my boys wander more widely in the local woods when they took a dog with them. This is pretty common where I live.

 

I,m beginning to think maybe I live an old fashioned life lol.

 

Nan

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I love Babar because he is a caring, involved father who together with his wife raises amazing children. This has always been my take home message from Babar, both as a child and as a mother--family is most important. He is wise, he is forgiving, he is nurturing. He's always trying to do better for his citizens.

 

The recent cartoon series, Babar and Badoo (his grandson!) are absolutely amazing. Parenting (and grandparenting) at its best.

 

 

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The worst one of all time is Sailor Dog. He has a hook for his various garments and that fact is repeated 500,000 times in the story.

We loved that book. Have you ever lived in a small boat for weeks at a time? Lol lol believe me, that emphasis on putting things on their proper hooks is AWSOME. : )

 

Nan

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I can't take any of that seriously.  Have you ever read the reviews for the classic  'Good Dog, Carl' picture books?  There is a significant number of people who think they are examples of terrible parenting (Mother lets the dog babysit) instead of fun fantasy. 

 

If you think the Carl books are suggestions for allowing your dog to babysit, I suspect you aren't intelligent enough to raise children.

 

Dear lord!

 

I love the Carl books. She's such a great artist! Our favorite is Carl's Christmas. We get it out every year.

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We loved that book. Have you ever lived in a small boat for weeks at a time? Lol lol believe me, that emphasis on putting things on their proper hooks is AWSOME. : )

 

Nan

 

My daughter loves, loves, loves Scuppers. She LOVES him. I get seasick, we are not boat people generally (we kayak, that's about it), but she is just taken by that story. How he's alone, how he fixes his ship... and then we sing the song at the end. She loves it.

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I love Babar because he is a caring, involved father who together with his wife raises amazing children. This has always been my take home message from Babar, both as a child and as a mother--family is most important. He is wise, he is forgiving, he is nurturing. He's always trying to do better for his citizens.

 

The recent cartoon series, Babar and Badoo (his grandson!) are absolutely amazing. Parenting (and grandparenting) at its best.

We like that cartoon too.

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It both does and doesn't make me sad. Every generation has new books, a few books will always be cut, like Sadie said above. I don't think it's inherently sad. I mean, is the meta-silly of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus better or worse than the crazy adventure that is Are You My Mother? Meh. They're both fine. Shelves only have room for so much. I do feel a pang that "free range" classics are on the chopping block, in part because if lack of supervision makes a book undesirable to current parents, then that leaves so little. It's *so* narrow since undersupervision or just invisible adults (where is Max and Ruby's mother anyway?!? And Charlie and Lola's for that matter?!?) is such an incredibly common trope. But I also feel sad because that's something I do value. But then, I am more likely to seek out and read those books anyway because they reflect my values. Also, I don't fully buy that they're on the way out the door - I think the pendulum is swinging on free range issues and I suspect it'll swing on the books as well, at least somewhat.

 

But other reasons that parents eliminate books - like that they don't love the "everyone gets a trophy" assumptions of Rainbow Fish (which is clearly no longer the massive hit it was a decade or two ago) or because they don't like the animal cruelty messages in Curious George are much more understandable to me. You don't like the message, you don't read the book. I don't think that's sad. That's expected and normal. Which brings me to this...

 

 

Why would I read something to my child - or strew a book for them or give it as a gift - that reflects values I don't hold? I'm not going to get to have a deep conversation about animal cruelty or independence vs. supervision for kids or whether or not the Giving Tree is creepy or the boy is a jerk with a 5 year old. It's not that I don't have faith in the intelligence of my kids circa age 5. It's that it's a futile exercise. It's about as useful as expecting them to have a nuanced opinion of Pilgrim's Progress. It's just not happening. Now, might I want to read The Giving Tree with a 10 year old and use it as an opening to learn about how to pick apart a story and discuss it? Maybe, but that's different. I just think in a lot of discussions of older books, people say, "read the older books!" and "use it as a teaching opportunity!" but I think it's silly when you're talking about young children. I mean, you're not in control of what they take from a book totally, but if you don't believe in the message of the book, don't read it.

 

To be clear, I agree that people should read kids the original fairy tales. Dark stories are good for little psyches. But I feel pretty differently when we're talking about, say, Babar or Rainbow Fish or The Berenstain Bears and the Obnoxious Moral Lesson.

Eh, it's not about specific books, it's the modern attitude that children are so terribly frail and intelligently limited that reading them books intended for toddlers will gravely affect them in irreparable ways. It must be exhausting for the parents.

 

I am not, to be clear, judging anyone on what they choose to read or shelter from their kids. Those are individual and private parenting decisions, like all the other judgement calls we all make on a daily basis. It's the bigger picture that I find sad and dismaying, where all of a sudden--literally in just our generation (which means we are to blame)--kids are no longer seen as capable human beings but as items to be protected at all costs. The cost, I'm afraid, is huge.

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The only book I have every skipped is "bedtime for Francis" and that is because she gets threatened with a spanking. My children would have been genuinely upset at the idea of a child being hit by an adult, even if it was "just" a threat. They didn't know such a thing was possible until they were much older, and that is fine with me. 

 

So, call me the PC police all you like, I can live with it. 

 

That's my favorite part of the book.

 

:leaving:

 

But I'm sorry your kids were upset by it. And I do understand why.

 

I can add another to the list--The Matchlock Gun

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It's the bigger picture that I find sad and dismaying, where all of a sudden--literally in just our generation (which means we are to blame)--kids are no longer seen as capable human beings but as items to be protected at all costs. The cost, I'm afraid, is huge.

 

And you're basing this on the fact that some people are selective about the books they read to their children? Am I misunderstanding you?

 

I personally don't know anyone who views their children as items rather than capable human beings. I think you'd need to be extremely well-acquainted with a person to make that kind of judgement. 

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"Blueberries for Sal" and "Are You My Mother" are, it seems, examples of bad parenting that will need to be explained to kids.

 

Why exactly does bad parenting need to be explained to little kids and/or the books featuring bad parenting need to be banned? Are people really concerned that if you read "Blueberries for Sal" to a 4yo they'll let their future kids (your future grandkids) wander off and be eaten by a bear (which didn't happen to Sal, but could've)?

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I am sure Potter would be out.  Peter getting spanked, his dad being made into pie. 

 

And Jemima Puddleduck - the farmer's wife trying to control her reproductive decisions!  The predatory gentleman!  The paternalistic dog, the puppies consuming the eggs, and the disparaging comments about her maternal capabilities!

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And you're basing this on the fact that some people are selective about the books they read to their children? Am I misunderstanding you?

 

I personally don't know anyone who views their children as items rather than capable human beings. I think you'd need to be extremely well-acquainted with a person to make that kind of judgement. 

 

I think everyone makes decisions, it's more, from my perspective, about why these particular decisions are being made. 

 

What is your vision of children if it seems obvious in your circle that a story like Good Dog Carl, or Blueberries for Sal, is dangerous or needs to be explained to your kids somehow?  How does a book like Are You My Mother become something that is a problem of that kind?

 

I think the idea that children are easily psychologically damaged is one that a lot of parents, particularly of young kids, seem to be picking up on now.  I've seen it some among the very religious, but I think in some ways its actually worse amongst the crunch set - if you put your baby in a stroller instead of a sling, or co-sleep or not, or formula feed, or vaccinate or don't, or let them eat a cake with sugar on their birthdays, or don't get them into the (insert right education option,) they will be more limited than they might have been.

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And you're basing this on the fact that some people are selective about the books they read to their children? Am I misunderstanding you?

 

I personally don't know anyone who views their children as items rather than capable human beings. I think you'd need to be extremely well-acquainted with a person to make that kind of judgement.

I think I was clear that's it's not just based on books and there was no judgement being placed on anyone. I could care less what any parent reads or doesn't read to their kids. What makes me sad is the general way kids are being treated (and yes, it is very different today than when we were growing up). In no time in history have they been treated the way they are today. That isn't directed toward anyone here and it's taking this discussion much larger than it was probably intended. I apologize for that. This thread, and others, just got me thinking about how much has changed, and yes, that makes me sad (again, not about imperialism or scary bears or what have you).

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What is your vision of children if it seems obvious in your circle that a story like Good Dog Carl, or Blueberries for Sal, is dangerous or needs to be explained to your kids somehow?  How does a book like Are You My Mother become something that is a problem of that kind?

 

I guess I'd figure those parents are more sensitive or concerned with certain issues than I am. [ETA: And I don't think it has much to do with their "vision of children." We *all* think children should be protected and guided; we just vary in the degree to which and areas in which we do that.] I don't think it's going to permanently damage children if their parents choose to skip certain books or read them with commentary. 

 

One example comes to mind. My theological beliefs align closely with Anabaptism. Many conservative Anabaptists strictly forbid children's literature in which animals talk or are otherwise anthropomorphized. Do I think this is odd and a bit extreme? Sure. I think their kids are missing out on some fun literature. That said, I can't fault them for setting their own standards. They have their reasons, whether I agree with them or not. Their children don't grow up unable to function in society. Most conservative Anabaptists I've met are exceptionally kind and hard-working people. It's really not my business to judge what they do or don't read to their kids.

Edited by MercyA
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I think I was clear that's it's not just based on books and there was no judgement being placed on anyone. I could care less what any parent reads or doesn't read to their kids. What makes me sad is the general way kids are being treated (and yes, it is very different today than when we were growing up). In no time in history have they been treated the way they are today. That isn't directed toward anyone here and it's taking this discussion much larger than it was probably intended. I apologize for that. This thread, and others, just got me thinking about how much has changed, and yes, that makes me sad (again, not about imperialism or scary bears or what have you).

 

Okay, MEmama, thanks for the clarification. I think we all need some cupcakes.  :)

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Well, I totally agree with you.  And I think often kids think about these things even if you don't always discuss them.

 

Although - about The Giving Tree - many people seem to think the book is promoting the attitude of the tree.  In fact Shel Silverstein was inspired by a kind of relationship that he felt was negative and damaging - women who stay with selfish and grasping men and think that by giving up everything of themselves, they can somehow be satisfied and satisfy the man in question too. 

 

 

Yes, precisely, but what I mean is that I think that it is very disturbing and there is some behavior in there that I wouldn't want my kids to emulate, but since it's not clear in the story, it both rises to another level of literature and also can be taken in a way that I think would be bad... advice? Again, we read it. We own it. It's very interesting, that book, and people's reactions. 
 
I can't unbold this. Sorry.
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I am sure Potter would be out. Peter getting spanked, his dad being made into pie.

 

And Jemima Puddleduck - the farmer's wife trying to control her reproductive decisions! The predatory gentleman! The paternalistic dog, the puppies consuming the eggs, and the disparaging comments about her maternal capabilities!

The two squirrel books would be particularly upsetting, I think lol. Squirrel Nutkin teases the owl until the owl takes him away and when he comes out, he is missing part of his tail. Or Timmy Tiptoes, where the squirrel and his friend hide from their wives. Or how about The Fierce Bad Rabbit! I read Jeremy Fisher over and over and was SO grateful, when I was tired, that when the pike tries to eat Jeremy, the picture shows Jeremy,s feet sticking out of the pike,s mouth, because it kept me from having to add editorial explanations. The pictures matched the text in the Potter books.

 

Nan

 

Eta - I got distracted lol. I meant to agree about Jemima Puddleduck. I didn,t like it as a child and when I read it to my children, I still didn,t like it. Too scary and sad to make an enjoyable readaloud. But your description! I can just hear some of my more thoughtful friends elaborating on that in horror lol. (I was super protective of my children when it came to tv or videos, and I tried to keep the older boys books out of the hands of my precocious youngest, so I sympathize with those who are censoring. I just happened to grow up on the Potters and real fairy tales and nursery rhymes and wasn,t worried about those.

Edited by Nan in Mass
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I'm not a huge Curious George fan for the reasons mentioned but I read it when requested. I can't figure out how Blueberries for Sal is offensive or Beatrix Potter. I'm really not fond of Little House on the Prairie, I read it to ds but haven't yet for any of the dd's and am avoiding it-  the mindset of how children are to be treated is all to real here, too much idolization of all of it for it to be too harmless fantasy for me. I'm sure that is not rational to many and so many adore it but I just don't.

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I guess I'd figure those parents are more sensitive or concerned with certain issues than I am. [ETA: And I don't think it has much to do with their "vision of children." We *all* think children should be protected and guided; we just vary in the degree to which and areas in which we do that.] I don't think it's going to permanently damage children if their parents choose to skip certain books or read them with commentary. 

 

One example comes to mind. My theological beliefs align closely with Anabaptism. Many conservative Anabaptists strictly forbid children's literature in which animals talk or are otherwise anthropomorphized. Do I think this is odd and a bit extreme? Sure. I think their kids are missing out on some fun literature. That said, I can't fault them for setting their own standards. Their children don't grow up unable to function in society. Most conservative Anabaptists I've met are exceptionally kind and hard-working people. It's really not my business to judge what they do or don't read to their kids.

 

Hmm, I'm not sure it's just a difference about the areas of protection.  It's more about - maybe psychological resilience, or perfectionism?  The level of anxiety I see in these mums is really really high.  It's not that they seem to think - well, it is better not to read books about talking mice - it almost seems at times that they think it one false move could ruin the child. (And I'm not sure what they would envision that to mean.)

 

The closest thing I can think of was an instance where my friend's SIL started to cry because her dad gave her toddler some whipped cream, which she thought would be bad for  him because it had sugar in it. 

 

I'm having some trouble expressing myself about this - it's almost a sense of a kind of contamination?  As if they could be contaminated with bad ideas.

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I think I was clear that's it's not just based on books and there was no judgement being placed on anyone. I could care less what any parent reads or doesn't read to their kids. What makes me sad is the general way kids are being treated (and yes, it is very different today than when we were growing up). In no time in history have they been treated the way they are today. That isn't directed toward anyone here and it's taking this discussion much larger than it was probably intended. I apologize for that. This thread, and others, just got me thinking about how much has changed, and yes, that makes me sad (again, not about imperialism or scary bears or what have you).

 

What specifically are you sad about? I don't necessarily disagree with you, but I am not sure what I am agreeing with.

 

Because every generation has been raised differently than the generation before them, At no time in history ever have children been treated the way they were at a time before.  The family is constantly changing and evolving and reflecting it's own time. Things change. Generations change the world around them.

 

Your mother wasn't raised like her mother was. You were not raised like your mother was. Your children are growing up in a different world than they one you grew up in. How is that a surprise? Every single generation looks at it's children and is surprised at how different the world is.

 

So why are you sad? Is it nostalgia? You think you had opportunities your kids don't have now? Is there some way you can provide them?

 

I personally am actually kind of glad my kids have not been raised like I was. When I hear my older relatives talk about how my generation 'should' be raising our kids, well, I'm very glad they aren't. 

 

I personally am excited to see the world our kids are going to build. I think there is a lot to look forward to.

 

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I guess I am a younger, modern mom and I hear sentiments like this a lot. I think since times change, book selections are going to change. We have more books to choose from now so books that were great back in time, may not be great now. If I have to choose between Babar or tacky the penguin, I will choose tacky ever time. I think many parents, like me, just have a different criteria. There is nothing wrong with that and I don't think anyone should be scared for today's kids...

 

This also might be a generational thing...society/culture changes so everything from music to books will change as well.

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... it almost seems at times that they think it one false move could ruin the child. (And I'm not sure what they would envision that to mean.)

 

The closest thing I can think of was an instance where my friend's SIL started to cry because her dad gave her toddler some whipped cream, which she thought would be bad for  him because it had sugar in it. 

 

I'm having some trouble expressing myself about this - it's almost a sense of a kind of contamination?  As if they could be contaminated with bad ideas.

 

I agree that type of thinking takes it to a whole other level, and that's not my viewpoint, at all. There is a huge difference between, on the one hand, being afraid of "contaminating" children with bad ideas and, on the other, wanting to transmit one's own values and faithfully teach what is true and good.

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Read all the things.  Have discussions about questionable parts

 

Not possible. Too many books are printed every year, not to mention all the ones which already exist. At some point, you have to make a choice. How you make it is your business, but you cannot "read all the things".

 

And I have to say, it's hilarious to me that this is all being presented as some affliction of modern parenting! Didn't the OP call out Where the Wild Things Are? Fun fact - when it first came out, it got all the exact criticism she suggests and was actually banned in many libraries. Blueberries for Sal? People have been challenging that book for decades. That's actually a plot point in - sigh - one of the Baby-Sitters Club books. (I swear, I read other books as a child!) Babar's imperialist tone was criticized from the very start. And so on.

 

Truly, there is nothing new under the sun.

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Not possible. Too many books are printed every year, not to mention all the ones which already exist. At some point, you have to make a choice. How you make it is your business, but you cannot "read all the things".

 

And I have to say, it's hilarious to me that this is all being presented as some affliction of modern parenting! Didn't the OP call out Where the Wild Things Are? Fun fact - when it first came out, it got all the exact criticism she suggests and was actually banned in many libraries. Blueberries for Sal? People have been challenging that book for decades. That's actually a plot point in - sigh - one of the Baby-Sitters Club books. (I swear, I read other books as a child!) Babar's imperialist tone was criticized from the very start. And so on.

 

Truly, there is nothing new under the sun.

 

I agree with the "read all the things" sentiment, not because I think one could actually read all the things.  But, for example, I see (and have always seen) the negativity in CS & Babar, etc - but I don't have any desire to not allow my kids to read those books.  We don't always discuss them right away - they are free to enjoy those books.  But it's all available for discussion as they grow.  & we do discuss, when appropriate.  

 

Babar is absolutely about colonialism (IMO) but we still read, and enjoy, those books.  Sometimes we also discuss them.

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While I could list a lot of books that would not meet today's parenting standards, I won't, because I don't think that's a good reason to not read a book to kids (or let them read it to themselves).

 

I mean, if it were, the first to go would have to be the story of Jesus' birth.  Who puts a newborn baby in a manger?  Call CPS!

 

All stories about the good reasons behind social change would have to go.  Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver, etc. etc. would be no-go's.  Louis Braille.  Helen Keller and especially her teacher.  The Annie Oakley books my kids recently read - forget it.  Dickens and Twain would be outlawed.  Every story about an orphan for that matter.  Might as well burn down all the libraries.  :P

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What specifically are you sad about? I don't necessarily disagree with you, but I am not sure what I am agreeing with.

 

Because every generation has been raised differently than the generation before them, At no time in history ever have children been treated the way they were at a time before. The family is constantly changing and evolving and reflecting it's own time. Things change. Generations change the world around them.

 

Your mother wasn't raised like her mother was. You were not raised like your mother was. Your children are growing up in a different world than they one you grew up in. How is that a surprise? Every single generation looks at it's children and is surprised at how different the world is.

 

So why are you sad? Is it nostalgia? You think you had opportunities your kids don't have now? Is there some way you can provide them?

 

I personally am actually kind of glad my kids have not been raised like I was. When I hear my older relatives talk about how my generation 'should' be raising our kids, well, I'm very glad they aren't.

 

I personally am excited to see the world our kids are going to build. I think there is a lot to look forward to.

 

Oh, I don't mean it like that all. Of course things change with every generation and thank goodness. I agree.

 

I've written several responses but deleted them all, knowing they will continue to be misinterpreted, so I'll bow out and privately agree with other posters who can write their responses more clearly than I can.

 

And now it's time for coffee and pie. :)

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I am sure Potter would be out. Peter getting spanked, his dad being made into pie.

 

And Jemima Puddleduck - the farmer's wife trying to control her reproductive decisions! The predatory gentleman! The paternalistic dog, the puppies consuming the eggs, and the disparaging comments about her maternal capabilities!

But nobody actually thinks or says that.

 

We are very liberal in our worldview, very progressive, and I don't see any of our family or friends doing this except in jest, like you.

 

I think that those reviews on Amazon might be from a tiny minority. Or now that I think about it perhaps they are jokes.

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I think the way a lot of people are discussing this assumes a very systematic, researched approach to children's books that I think is really rare. I think most of the time, it's that parents either pick up a book at the library, read it once to the kid, think, meh, I didn't love that message, and then don't get it again. Or, they remember the book from their own childhood, didn't love it and now think, gosh, I have a justification that I didn't think it was very good - the messages are bad! And they don't ever get it for their kids. And as that happens, the books that fewer people are reading get stocked less in both libraries and bookstores and fall out of favor in general. The fewer people reading it, the fewer people reading it, if that makes sense.

 

It's not a plot against Blueberries for Sal.

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Ping wouldn't make the cut. Spanking a duck just because he's last? The Amazon reviews of that book crack me up with people going on about how harsh it is. Of course, I've heard people complain about Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, as well (the alphabet book...about letters) because they fall out of the tree and it made their children cry. To each their own. My children are not so naturally empathetic as to cry over letters, I suppose.

 

Well, Amazon reviews can be a whole new world of crazy. My "favorites" are the parents who are upset that reading a picture book to their child entails... teaching them new vocabulary. "What two year old knows what heap or weep is?" "Why would I want to teach my child the world ultimatum?" "There is no possible way to guess what a mukluk might be and I have never heard of guessing from context!" Yes, how dare authors expect that you will read with your child!

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But nobody actually thinks or says that.

 

We are very liberal in our worldview, very progressive, and I don't see any of our family or friends doing this except in jest, like you.

 

I think that those reviews on Amazon might be from a tiny minority. Or now that I think about it perhaps they are jokes.

 

Well the Jemima thing was a joke, because I made it up. I have heard people really complain about Peter Rabbit. I am sure the lady who thought that Are You My Mother and Blueberries for Sal are examples of bad parenting was not joking.  Enough people seem to have encountered it that I think that it is not all, or even mainly, joking people complaining about books like Good Dog Carl.

 

Jemima connected for me because like Are You My Mother, its about a bird.  The thing is, if we think of Jemima as a person, the farmer's wife would be way out of line giving her eggs to a chicken.  But she's a duck, and domestic ducks really are not very good mothers (and they are ducks, not people.)

 

Even though she's been anthropomorphized and talks and wears a bonnet, she still has an essentially ducky character.

 

I think this is often true in kids stories about animals.  So I find complaining about birds parenting badly a little odd, and I think it is probably a mistake to assume kids books about animals are meant to reflect attitudes to people.

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Warning: Off topic rant because I think I wrote one of those reviews.

 

Well, Amazon reviews can be a whole new world of crazy. My "favorites" are the parents who are upset that reading a picture book to their child entails... teaching them new vocabulary. "What two year old knows what heap or weep is?" "Why would I want to teach my child the world ultimatum?" "There is no possible way to guess what a mukluk might be and I have never heard of guessing from context!" Yes, how dare authors expect that you will read with your child!

 

To be fair, I have written such a review. A full 30% of the nouns in the book were from a foreign language and there was no glossary and it was a board book. It was impossible to guess the context and the words were not all in the dictionary. And this was a board book. I want to Google and read definitions of words with my five year old. I do not want to stop story-time with a one-year-old to go on Google because words aren't in the dictionary. Now you know I am very pro-language and pro-book but at some point you do provide a glossary!

 

Some board books are also truly poor adaptations of longer books where there is context and I think poor reviews are merited.

 

I wonder how much of the criticism has to do with the board-book adaptation. I've been very disappointed in many of those. In fact I think they comprise 100% of my negative reviews.

 

I have to wonder if you saw my review of "How Much Do You Love Me?" or something like that (and no, mukluks were not confusing--they used a different specific term on each page). To be honest I hate that book. "If I burn down your house will you love me?"

 

"Ya know what? Go live with the flipping junkies if you feel like burning down my house. NO. I won't. So don't do it. Do you want me to prove my love by putting up with your bullcrap?" The book rapidly goes from innocent children's mistakes into full-on "if I turned into a bear and tried to kill you" territory. Like, literally.

 

But maybe I'm sensitive because my grandparents actually had my dad actually burn part of their house. He was the bear. "Love me mama, prove you love me." (My dad is in a long process of repentance at this point--after his parents died.)

 

So to me it really hit home. I am happy to tell them NO if you do drugs, you have to stop the drugs before I turn back on the love--my dad attacked his own parents.

 

That said, we still kept that book although I thought it sucked. I never tossed it. I addressed the message. It was given as a gift and we kept it.

 

Does it encourage children to take up meth and burn down their parents' houses when drug money is not produced? Or turn into bears? Or other similarly scary things?

 

No, but having lived through that (not in person, but listening to my grandma cry to my mom) I feel very strongly that you have to let junkies and other insane people right away that they get help or they get out of your life. Whether or not that is "love" is beside the point. I am not here to be abused so you feel loved. "I would be scared" does not cut it. "If a bear came in here I wouldn't know it was you, and I might shoot it" would be more along the lines of the message I'd give my kids. But of course I did not change the message. We read the book, we talked about it.

 

I guess you have to go through abuse to fully appreciate the emotional reaction that can spark in people. You might think you'd still love your child after they made babies (that you must raise of course) with three different junkie prostitutes AND ransacked your house AND stole your car. And maybe you would. You'd also turn them over to the judge without a second thought if you were my poor, poor neighbors who had two great kids and one kid that was just... he just did everything you can do in life to hurt others and cause destruction without actively becoming a suicide bomber or mass murderer.

 

To me that book was very difficult to take. "Probably a bad mom because with your background you know you'd call animal control on that bear without a second thought, you know the bear would say at that time, 'Don't you love me? If you loved me you wouldn't do this to me!'"

 

Interestingly my mother received the "go bear and you're out, love isn't part of the equation" message, while my dad received the "god heals everyone" message. Mom did light drugs but eventually stopped. Dad went full-on... we'll never know why.

 

I was thrilled when my kids finally donated that book, hopefully to a family that has never know the transformation drugs can make on a person, that have never had to make that choice. And without wanting to scream they will happily read those lines, "I'd be scared but I'd still love you!"

 

ETA: I know the author might not have known the implications of that message, of course. And that kids don't know about drugs--not most kids, not at the board-book age. And I fully, fully get that kids may interpret bear as something innocuous... but a bear is scary. And that the author probably was not thinking of all the things a kid can do to ruin their parents' lives and kill them. I get that. It doesn't have to be intentionally wrong to be wrong.

 

I still think I disagree with the author's fundamental message about love. Love for one's children can end. It's not true that "not enabling" is a kind of love. Sometimes you have to actually stop caring whether they live or die, to stop enabling. They will say "if you don't I'll kill myself". And people have said that to parents and then killed themselves. Or if they got what they wanted, gone back to do it again and again and again.

 

So it is really the fundamental message that I find so insidious.

 

But unlike the Giving Tree it is quite explicit in its message.

 

And still, we kept it, they read it.

Edited by Tsuga
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Not possible. Too many books are printed every year, not to mention all the ones which already exist. At some point, you have to make a choice. How you make it is your business, but you cannot "read all the things".

 

And I have to say, it's hilarious to me that this is all being presented as some affliction of modern parenting! Didn't the OP call out Where the Wild Things Are? Fun fact - when it first came out, it got all the exact criticism she suggests and was actually banned in many libraries. Blueberries for Sal? People have been challenging that book for decades. That's actually a plot point in - sigh - one of the Baby-Sitters Club books. (I swear, I read other books as a child!) Babar's imperialist tone was criticized from the very start. And so on.

 

Truly, there is nothing new under the sun.

 

Sure, I think the most natural way to decide what to read is pick out books that are actually good.  As in, good literature.  There are a heck of a lot of kids books that are just badly written, or not compelling stories, or too tendious for the parents to stand.

 

It's true that there was some controversy about Where the Wild Things Are, but I would argue that too was a failure to treat it as literature and instead came from a perspective which essentially sees books as didactic media in order to fill children up with certain acceptable ideas.  As a criticism, it failed because the book is true, psychologically speaking. Curious George I suspect speaks to children for similar reasons - his experience and emotions mirror those of a child, while also creating wish fulfillment scenarios and allowing the child to feel wiser than George.  Contextually to us it might seem to be about colonialism, but to a child it is about childhood and lack of power and dependence. I think the criticism of Blueberries for Sal fails mainly because it is petty.

 

And while anyone can get along well enough in life without having read those particular books, if they have read other good books, I do think it is a shame to miss out on poetry for reasons like that. 

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Sure, I think the most natural way to decide what to read is pick out books that are actually good.  As in, good literature.  There are a heck of a lot of kids books that are just badly written, or not compelling stories, or too tendious for the parents to stand.

 

It's true that there was some controversy about Where the Wild Things Are, but I would argue that too was a failure to treat it as literature and instead came from a perspective which essentially sees books as didactic media in order to fill children up with certain acceptable ideas.  As a criticism, it failed because the book is true, psychologically speaking. Curious George I suspect speaks to children for similar reasons - his experience and emotions mirror those of a child, while also creating wish fulfillment scenarios and allowing the child to feel wiser than George.  Contextually to us it might seem to be about colonialism, but to a child it is about childhood and lack of power and dependence. I think the criticism of Blueberries for Sal fails mainly because it is petty.

 

And while anyone can get along well enough in life without having read those particular books, if they have read other good books, I do think it is a shame to miss out on poetry for reasons like that. 

 

But then if you can create a book like Wild Things that can be made psychologically "true" without also having potentially "bad" other messages like that cruelty to animals is okay, then isn't that better? Mostly just playing devil's advocate... I admit that I don't have super strong feelings about Curious George per se.

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To the OP:

Dr. Doolittle

Little Black Sambo (I had that book as a kid, and it was my favorite because it was the most beautifully illustrated, but I never would read it to my DD.)

This book has actually been saved by being redone as the Story of Little Babaji, with ethnically appropriate illustrations.

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This book has actually been saved by being redone as the Story of Little Babaji, with ethnically appropriate illustrations.

 

Yes. Although I will say, as I always do, that I greatly prefer "Sam and the Tigers". That's a rewrite, though, and Babaji just swapped out the names and pictures.

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To the OP:  

Dr. Doolittle

Little Black Sambo (I had that book as a kid, and it was my favorite because it was the most beautifully illustrated, but I never would read it to my DD.)

 

I love that book.

 

 I have a reprinted copy of the original. I have read it to many many children.

 

I am guessing that form American standpoint they find it offensive (???). but looking at my copy it is set in India.  I don't see what the whole big deal is at all.

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I love that book.

 

 I have a reprinted copy of the original. I have read it to many many children.

 

I am guessing that form American standpoint they find it offensive (???). but looking at my copy it is set in India.  I don't see what the whole big deal is at all.

 

The original was also set in India, however, the illustrations in the version I had as a child were pretty offensive caricatures of black people complete with exaggerated features. Also, the name "Sambo" is an old fashioned racial slur for a black person. The *story* is just fanciful and funny. If you change out the illustrations and the names (which is what the Little Babaji version does) then you're left with a book that's perfectly fine. I like the other rewrite that Tanaqui mentions, which is by Julius Lester, but I admit that I sort of love Fred Marcellino's illustrations for Babaji.

 

I think Little Black Sambo is almost the opposite type of potentially "offensive" as the others we've been discussing. I mean, all the offensive things about it are completely overt - use of a racial slur and stereotypical illustrations that look like those horrible pickaninny dolls - while the story is fine. By contrast most of the books in this thread have overt messages that are fine - curiosity is good, picking blueberries is fun, etc. - while the covert messages are, at least, potentially negative - it's okay to mistreat animals or leave children to wander alone, etc.

 

ETA: Melissa, it's likely you don't have a version that's actually original - they haven't been sold with the original illustrations in many years, apparently even in most countries abroad. But I would urge you to look at the illustrations and think about if they're actually okay with you.

Edited by Farrar
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LOL.  There are indeed some sucky kid books.  Especially certain board books.  Not because they are dangerous to kids or parents, but because they just aren't good books.  I tend to be picky about the arts I consume, even board books.  There are some great ones, why waste time on the sucky ones?

 

I think the over-the-top "would you still love me" books are kinda dumb.  They didn't have those when I was a kid, and somehow we all managed to grow up knowing our parents didn't want to eat us or abandon us.  Even those of us who were *gasp* spanked.  And I suspect that if a kid really felt insecure about his mom's maternal feelings, a corny book wouldn't fix that.

 

And as for "are you my mother," the mom bird was a bit airheaded, but the ending was sweet.  Also, it's a bird.  Birds leave their babies in the nest to go get food IRL.  Sometimes a baby IRL gets pushed out of the nest and dies.  What that has to do with modern human parenting is beyond me.  Are they saying the mom who is sitting lovingly reading with the child on her lap is threatening to fly away and disappear?  Are there kids in the USA who actually took that message from that book?

 

Personally I didn't push that book on my own kids, because they were adopted and didn't look like me and it might touch a nerve.  When they did read it on their own, they liked it just fine.  It was just a cute story about a baby bird.

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I know for me I was honestly surprised at some of the subtext in books I remembered with a warm, cuddly feeling when I took Children's literature as a grad student. Because here was all this complaint about subtext and implications, and All I remembered was 'oh, yeah, I liked that book' -either because I had read it with a parent or because it was associated with libraries and those were friendly, loving places to me. To me, a lot of the debate over children's books was grad students being grad students and trying to make believe that we weren't having fun reading things that were easy and fun because grad school is supposed to be serious business.

 

When I was a parent and had a child, I picked books to read with her that I had a warm, cuddly feeling about as a child-figuring that she would pick up on the "that's awful, the monkey should be left in the forest" stuff when she was a grad student or a parent, but meanwhile, would enjoy the book where a monkey was doing silly things that kids knew they shouldn't do, but secretly wanted to see what would happen. And given that she's a very avid animal rights activist now, I don't think Curious George hurt her any. I skipped the books I didn't like as a child, found tedious or boring to read as an adult, or just didn't have that association that made my heart beat faster. And I found new books that obviously were favorites of DD, like the "How do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight"-which puts dinosaurs obviously in the position of little children, not at all like young therapods.

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