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Poor fire-breathing dragon.

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I’ve mentioned my daughter’s empathy for, well, everything. Sometimes I think it is very sweet (and positive) and sometimes I worry she could be a little evil. How could empathy possibly seem evil, you ask? I will give you two examples. Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury’s We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is about a family that goes on a bear hunt. They (this post is full of spoiler alerts) find a bear who chases them back across the long route they just traversed (through all sorts of exciting nature and weather). Finally, they arrive home and are able to lock the scary bear out of the house and hide in bed together. A reader may ask, why on earth did this family go on a bear hunt? Many may enjoy the rhythm of the book and be happy at the end: the family is safe and they had a fun adventure. My daughter feels really sad for the bear. She kisses the last picture and says “oh no.” That’s right, at the end of the book is concerned about the bear, poor sad bear who didn’t get to attack the family. The Paper Bag Princess (story by Robert N. Munsch and illustrations by Michael Martchenko) is about a princess who defeats a dragon with her wits and then leaves a prince because he is superficial. It’s a boardbook of female empowerment. What is my daughter’s reaction when the princess gets the dragon to run out of fire using only her words? “Uh oh!” Why? She is worried about the dragon. The dragon who wants to eat the princess, who just burned up her home, and who carried off the prince. 

4 responses »

  1. Your daughter sounds just like my son!

  2. On the other hand, perhaps your daughter’s perceptions are more acute than your own 🙂 This is what the illustrator said about the bear picture at the top-

    It occurred to me three-quarters of the way through that the bear was all on his own in the cave, and might have wanted some company rather than to eat the children. I modelled his posture on the final page on a friend who had depression and whose shoulders dropped when he walked. He actually recognised himself and the original now hangs on his wall.

    • That’s a great story, thank you for sharing! And I may have been kidding around about it, but I appreciate my daughter’s intense empathy.


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