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Monthly Archives: April 2012

After a stint in in prison, George gets nostalgic, overdoses, and is repeatedly exploited

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The original, enthralling Curious George books (by Margret and H.A. Rey) contain too much action and things worthy of comment to talk about in just one post. This is going to summarize parts of Curious George, Curious George Takes a Job, and Curious George Rides a Bike (just the very beginning). George’s acclimation to his new life (post abduction) is not easy. He lands in prison for a simple mistake. He paints a picture of his homeland (trying to communicate where he would actually like to be?) and — because of his art — is chased. During the pursuit, he breaks his leg, since he isn’t used to pavement (there is no pavement in the jungle). In the hospital he tries to put himself out of his misery (it’s the second time, he also tried to drown himself earlier). But the man in the yellow hat finds him and makes him work as an actor. On the job George at least gets to pretend he is back home, in his jungle. He gets to play in a recreation of his homeland, making money for his kidnapper. Later, sadistic man in the yellow hat wants to take captured George to see other captured animals (probably using the money he made off of George) to “celebrate” the year anniversary of his abduction. Do you remember this from when you were a kid? Do you think the man in the yellow hat should be punished?

“If You Give a Pig a Pancake” (By Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond)

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Has your toddler or drunk friend ever looked like this? Has your toddler ever done this to your house? Which would you rather leave alone in your dining room for 15 minutes, a pig or a toddler? Please share.

Have a great weekend!

Explanation & previous quizzes. 

No! No! No! No!

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We’re working on having our daughter learn Italian. There are times when it is easier to integrate it into her life and times when it is harder. There are moments when she resists it and moments when she loves it. She has consistently really enjoyed Noemi dice no!  (story by Anna Lavatelli and illustrations by Paolo Turini). Even when she doesn’t want to speak Italian or hear it, she’ll happily listen to me read this book to her over and over again. It’s about a little girl whose first word is “No!” She starts saying “no” all the time and that is all she will say. Everyone is worried and tries to get her to say something else. Finally, they discover that she wasn’t saying “no” to everything, but trying to say her name, Noemi. I think my daughter may love it because her name also begins with “no” and she called herself “Nono” for a while (as did people at her daycare and her longest standing, closest friend). Now she alternates between her name and “Nono.” We hadn’t thought of how often one would be saying “no” to a child when we named her (or that “Nono” would be a potential, however temporary, nickname). She used to repeat things she shouldn’t do (burn herself, jump off high things, the basics), by saying “No no, Nono” (which sounded a lot like “no no no no”). It’s completely not confusing. Uh. The book plays with this confusion. It also has colorful pictures on one side and the big text on the other, along with solitary objects that she points to and we talk about in Italian, which is great. I kind of hope she loves it because of the narrative and not just because of the pictures (as arresting as they are), because … well. I’ll let you admire a couple of depictions of Signor Groppo yourself. What was your first word? Your child’s? How many times a day do you think you say “no”?

Tickle tickle tickle ow

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My friend got my daughter this extremely fun book that comes with tickle monster gloves. In the beginning my daughter just enjoyed Tickle Monster (by Josie Bissett and illustrated by Kevan J. Atteberry), and didn’t completely understand what was going on. Then she enjoyed it because she wanted to be tickled. Now she puts the gloves on and tries to tickle me, which would be fantastic if she understood what exactly tickling was. Sometimes she thinks tickling is a synonym for scratching or pinching (though she is getting better). She often doesn’t understand where people are ticklish. For instance, I am not ticklish on my eyeball. I also do not appreciate being tickled in public when my daughter seems to think it involves removing articles of clothing I would rather keep on, zipped, closed, etc.  Sometimes she puts on the gloves and I just run away. She puts the monster in tickle monster. Do you have good memories of being tickled? Are you ticklish on your eyeball or butt?

Grover, put Elmo down and walk away

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Alright, before I delve back into my Elmo problems, I want to say that I understand he is supposed to represent pure love. I don’t blame the puppeteer, subject of a recent documentary, for Elmo’s annoyingness. One of the reviewers said that “committed elmo-haters may be converted” by the film. I did find Kevin Clash’s story moving. It is not the puppeteer’s fault that Elmo (and Elmo products!) have taken over the toddler world* and are constantly in my face, on my daughter’s butt, and in her hand (it isn’t all my fault either,  the majority of my daughter’s Elmo products were not  purchased by me, she is really lucky that I have sisters). The classic 1970s Monster at the End of this Book features Grover who is freaking out about the monster at the end of his book (that ends up being him). It is adorable and fun. Then they wrote a sequel, in which Elmo harasses poor Grover, pushes him to do things he doesn’t want to do (like Elmo does with his mime, he is a bizarre control freak sometimes). What is Elmo doing on the cover? Making Grover carry him and adding in that he is just as cute as Grover! Elmo you don’t have to compare your cuteness level, it isn’t a competition! Heaven help Elmo if Grover is in the spotlight for two seconds, have you not realized it is Elmo’s world Grover? If I had a friend who had a friend like Elmo, I’d tell her to drop her Elmo-friend and find someone more supportive who cares about more than being the center of attention ALL THE TIME. Do you think Elmo is a good friend? Is being controlling, needy, and narcissistic part of pure love?

*Tellingly in the documentary Kevin Clash (Elmo’s puppeteer) mentions that tickle me Elmo (Elmo’s most famous product)  didn’t sound like Elmo.

I am so sorry, George!

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Tired of the often formulaic twenty-first century Curious George books, I sought out the originals, thinking they must be better and different. They are different. I am going to write about the first one for now. I had a vague memory of a picture of the man with the yellow hat’s hat taking up the entirety of a page and of the man getting to know Curious George. Why do you think the man with a yellow hat doesn’t have a name? Why is he just the “man”? I had thought it was because his primary importance was his relationship to George, his own identity hardly mattering. Or that he could represent anyone, any “man” (human) with a curious little monkey (“monkey,” or child ), so his identity is kept general. Now I think it may be because if his name were known his actions would be protested and he might even be prosecuted. Some people would be picketing the outside of the man in the yellow hat’s building, pleading for Curious George’s freedom.

I read the original Curious George growing ever more horrified at what was happening and not happy that I had identified with the man with the yellow hat. His trying to keep George in line isn’t really like my trying to keep my daughter from causing chaos, but more like a kidnapper trying to keep their abductee in line, and imprisoned. Perhaps I remembered the yellow hat the best, because the hat is what is used to lure George… into a bag. George is taken away from his home and then lives with the offender. The man with the yellow hat rips George from his homeland and forces him into a zoo.  Am I overreacting? When I was done reading and my daughter was busy playing with her monkeys, I googled “curious george problem” to see if I were alone. I am not. Is this some sort of overly sensitive twenty-first century reading? Overly p.c.? A lot of nursery rhymes are shocking if you think about what they are saying for more than a second, but I don’t have a problem with them. I love Barbar, remember it from when I was a kid and enjoy it now. In it a hunter shoots Barbar’s mother and Babar runs off, joining the human community (in some ways). But there is no franchise that focuses on the friendship between the hunter and Babar.

In good news, it has completely changed my view of Curious George’s mischief and I can go back to reading the more formulaic Curious George books, rooting for George to cause trouble. Did the man in the yellow hat tell you to sit quietly? Please, George, do the opposite of that and I am so sorry I misunderstood your situation. George’s curiosity is his last tie to his former identity. I should not have judged you so quickly. You are a good little monkey! Some people are displeased with the people who have a strong negative reaction to the original book point out that the Reys left Germany (and then France) to escape the Nazis (carrying the manuscript for Curious George). I am not claiming that the original shouldn’t be read (obviously Curious George is a classic that can withstand a little critique) or that the Reys themselves have issues, but it does fundamentally alter how I view the man in the yellow hat and his relationship with George. There is a lot more to say about the originals, I’ll be updating next week, on Monkey Monday.

Brush your hair or you will be purchased and used to clean the floor.

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I came across Don Freeman’s Mop Top at Half Price Books and had to purchase it for my friend who writes about redheads, because the cover features a jaunty little redheaded boy. I can’t wait to see what she does with it (update to follow!). Full disclosure, friend, I read it to my daughter first — I hope you don’t mind — and I found that, despite her lack of red hair it contained a lesson for her. And for myself: cut, brush, and comb your hair or people will give you a mean nickname and worse, try to use you as a mop. This hits a little too close to home, since my daughter and I both have fine, curly(ish) hair, that can sometimes look… moppy. Her hair was so wild when it was at a certain point (before it really grew in) that people in the streets would laugh and comment with glee. I think the term “baby Einstein” (not referring to her incredible intelligence) was used more than once. You’ll be happy to know that she now has longer, more kempt curls, but I still think that being used as a mop is kind of an extreme answer. Hey kid, you better start using some product, or we will literally wipe the floor with you.