Saturday, November 5, 2016

Some Books are Like Cilantro - You Either Love Them or You Hate Them

My child hates cilantro, DESPISES IT! I love it! I'll eat that all up.
My father hates basil, DESPISES IT! If my mother even rips a few leaves off of the plant and brings them into the kitchen he says he can smell it and it makes him ill.
I'd also eat all of the basil...

Some children's books are similar, just like cilantro. This week I was working away and looked up and announced to my fellow librarians, "Do you know who I hate? Amelia Bedelia."
If you've read my blog you already know this about me and Amelia. My co-librarian said, "Why? I find her infectiously fun". I justified my feeling by saying that Amelia teaches a bad lesson, that incompetency in your work is excusable.

It got us talking about some of the bad messages in children's books.
There are a few that many people have gone back and forth on.
Such as Robert Munsch's
Love You Forever
So much has been written about this book so I won't bother. I find the illustrations to be the part I like least about this book. Just not aesthetically my style. I do remember being at a baby shower in my late 20's and a friend bringing this book to read aloud to all of us. She was a mother, the majority of us weren't and I will be honest that the rest of us had an "ick" feeling to the book. Of course after becoming a mother myself I understand and agree with the sentiment but this will never be on my list of favorites.

Another book widely criticized, and one I agree with because I cannot stand what I see as the message of this book is
Shel Silverstein's
The Giving Tree
Ok, this little boy is a jerk. And the tree gives him everything it has and to me it's a horrible message of codependency. But some people go CRAZY nuts for this book. Shel wrote some weird stuff for kids. I know his background was as a cartoonist for Playboy magazine, and he did a lot of things for adults.
He did write another book that I like a lot and find the meanings to be interesting.
The Missing Piece

The Missing Piece
This guy has a missing piece and he rolls around in search of a piece to fill his emptiness. Some are too big, some are too little and on it goes until he rolls enough and closes the gap and realizes that nothing was missing he just needed to find it in himself. A piece on individualism over relationships for sure. Maybe not a book to give as a wedding gift, but a good lesson to not try to fill what we feel is lacking within us with other people or things.

Another book with a questionable message is
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
by Judith Viorst
I have been in the "like it" camp on this one. In fact the end, after Alexander's rotten day, his mother tells him "some days are like that". Which I have told to my own child when he's expressed having a very rotten day. And I believe some days are like that but we have the power to change them. As my own child has gone off to University I think that maybe I coddled his wallowing a bit too much, just as Alexander's mother does. Maybe if she'd added the part of tough love to it I'd now appreciate it more.
Now I find myself adding "if you don't like it, change it" and things like "pull your big boy pants up and deal with it" to him. Maybe she should have said that to Alexander.
Alexander does have a rotten day, he has gum in his hair, he has to go to the dentist, there is no dessert in his lunch bag. Of course much of the problems are self-created and he doesn't ever really take responsibility for them and gets into a funk and wallows.
Start with the gum, why was he chewing gum in his bed? Maybe if his mother had said that gum chewing shouldn't happen in bed and now you know why and on and on he wouldn't be such a self-piteous little kid.

The Cat in the Hat
by Dr. Seuss
The Cat in the Hat
Dr Seuss? Love him? Hate him? He's not as universally loved as people think. I think Theodore Geisel was a wondrous wordsmith and able to do so much with words. His ability to write a book in rhymes that is as fun to hear as it is to read aloud is perfection. His ability to write beginning reader books with very few words is also fabulous.
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

But some of his books fill me with dread and anxiety. I've read the Cat in the Hat enough times in my life, if I never read it again I'm OK with that. And what is the message in this one? Surely I'm not saying that all children's books should be read literally, but why does he just barge into their house and create extreme havoc? The poor fish is so stressed out and at some point in life I think you cross over from feeling as the amused children do to feeling the stress of the situation just like the poor fish.

Some would argue that to children this is delightful, and funny. And I'm looking at it from a place where I don't see how children like "funny". But children aren't dumb little adults and I don't think we need to pander down to them to reach them (off soapbox).

Green Eggs and Ham
Here's another Dr. Seuss book that I can live without. I want to like it and growing up my brother liked it SO MUCH that he cooked scrambled eggs for us all with green food coloring in them. But this makes my mind feel crazy. I can't...basically Sam I Am stalks and peer pressures until the eggs are tried. Ugh.

And while I love Horton Hatches the Egg and the messages of some of his books, some of them just feel like I'm getting hit over the head with the message.
Like in The Lorax.
The Lorax
No thanks.

My co-librarian talked about how much she dislikes Roald Dahl, who I disagreed with because I think he is the greatest. In fact in my estimation, some of the best book quotes and messages are found in his books. She thought his books were too dark, and probably disliked some of the exact things that I loved.

There are some books that at my library we agreed on not liking such as
The Adventures of Captain Underpants books
The Adventures of Captain Underpants (Captain Underpants, #1)
and my co-librarian mentioned
the Dumb Bunnies which I'm not really familiar with.
Dumb Bunnies Collection
Same author on these, and they are dumb about dumb things and dumb characters and the books are dumb. Dumb. But you know what? Many 5th grade boys think this is hysterical stuff. I'm not above a good fart joke myself so I understand, but these are just DUMB.

Dear Dumb Diaries
Let's Pretend This Never Happened (Dear Dumb Diary #1)
More dumb stuff. I just think that even if the kids want to read "funny" there are better choices.
None of these are bad per say, and are all very popular but I am not a fan.

I'd lastly add the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books to this list.
Image result for diary of a wimpy kid
I have only read the first in the series. But that was enough for me. Too many books, not enough time kind of thing - there are better choices awaiting me.
There isn't anything bad in them really, they are just dumb and filled with bad attitudes and negativity. Maybe for a young teen it's more funny but I don't think they are a great choice at all.
I had bought them for my own child when they first came out as I've vacillated on whether it is good just to get a kid reading or not. I'll talk about that more at a later time because I have more of an opinion on it now.

The last book that I found out some people greatly dislike is
Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak
Image result for where the wild things are
Wait, what? Whoever doesn't like this book is just wrong.

Happy Reading!

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