So this post may be along the lines of “things one shouldn’t admit aloud, let alone write for the whole world to see.” Sometimes I think my daughter can read my mind. We’ll be walking along and she asks me about someone I was just randomly thinking about, even though we weren’t walking by anything connected to the person. She’ll ask me about something I am thinking to myself that I do not understand how she could guess or know that I was thinking. Anyway, she has also (a more commercial, less unnerving, more annoying personality trait) figured out that representations of stuff represents stuff that can be acquired. She’ll point to a picture of a toy or book and tell me she wants it. So far I have had a few answers: “Great” (hoping she’ll forget about it). “Why don’t you tell your aunt?” (Hoping my sisters will just find this cute and not materialistically horribly spoiled AND hoping my daughter will forget about it by the time she sees them). “Why don’t you tell your grandma?” (hoping my daughter will forget by the time she sees her and because I am kind of interested to see what my mom would do, this would not have worked for me as a kid at all, but grandchildren are different). “Okay, maybe for your birthday” (Which is in about a year). I have also made a few exceptions and gotten her some things, all of them monkey books. Three of them are Five Little Monkey books she mentioned wanting (already discussed this, frankly I wanted them as well) and the other is Curious George Goes to a Costume Party. She, for some strange reason, repeatedly pointed to this Curious George book (pictured on the back of one of her other Curious George books). Over and over again. I got it for her and discovered it involved Curious George (one of her top ten favorite monkeys) JUMPING ON A BED (one of her favorite things monkeys do). How did she know this book would have this in it? How did she choose this particular book? Answers: she somehow read it somewhere else (but her school tells us the books they read) and knew it, it is a coincidence, the cover of this Curious George is particularly interesting (below, would this be the one you would choose?) or she is psychic.
Category Archives: Scary
Glen Wright’s I Sleep in My Own Bed starts off (as many of these books do) by trying logic, in an attempt to reason with the young listeners. One of the problems with getting toddlers to sleep is sometimes they are not logical, they often don’t understand “Go to sleep or you will be annoyed and annoying tomorrow” (I wouldn’t phrase it quite that way if speaking directly to my daughter). The beginning of the book talks about why the boy doesn’t sleep in other places (his sister’s room, his parents’ room, etc.). I like this part. Then he starts talking about how he doesn’t sleep in the washer or fridge. My daughter has never attempted to get into either of these appliances and I don’t want her to think it is a possibility or something one can consider, the way one considers other people’s beds. Next thing about this book is we live in a one bedroom apartment (this is changing soon, so excited!). Wait, this has nothing to do with this book, you say? Well the boy also talks about how both of his parents’ cars live in the garage (They have a garage and a huge house, including a basement, a shed, etc.!). So a good deal of the “logic” of the book doesn’t make any sense for us and frankly, if I had a shed there would be nights I’d let my daughter sleep in it. Finally, one of the reasons the boy sleeps in his room is because the monsters can’t get in and he can hold his parents hostage. I’ve been held hostage before by a two year old, it’s truly scary and I don’t like to see it mentioned in print. I also do not like the idea of monsters outside of my door, I mean, my daughter’s door.
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.
On the same day I happened to acquire two books about conquering fears: Dick Gackenbach’s Harry and the Terrible Whatzit and Betty Paraskevas and Michael Paraskevas’ Maggie and the Ferocious Beast. The Big Scare. My daughter loves new (new as in new or borrowed or used) books so we read them both that evening. I hadn’t read them before. Now before I go on, I have to tell you that I do not usually check how age appropriate books are (The Big Scare, 2-6 — so age appropriate, and Whatzit doesn’t say on the book, but on amazon 5 and up) and I am not even sure what this means for little kids. If my daughter wants to read something with a lot of text, we try it. She doesn’t tend to pick up books that don’t have pictures (so most books she is interested in are aimed at her) and she doesn’t have the patience to sit through long books. I hadn’t encountered a book where I thought, hmmm maybe I shouldn’t have read that to her, it doesn’t seem appropriate. I didn’t think that while I was reading Whatzit and The Big Scare, but my daughter did not sleep well that night. After months of sleeping through the night without problems, she woke up twice, screaming. Maybe it wasn’t due to the books, but I am suspicious. The Big Scare goes through a whole list of fears (with pictures) to show that there is nothing to be afraid of because the fears discussed are fears of things that don’t exist. Harry and the Terrible Whatzit has Harry defeating a monster (the Whatzit) by not fearing it. The lesson of both stories is you can defeat fear by not being afraid. They are both (in very different ways) fun books (the Whatzit is awesome), but I fear my daughter was just introduced to a series of things that she could be afraid of (basements, closets, etc.). We don’t have a basement, so she didn’t know you could be afraid of it and that monsters could be living in it! The fears that are “conquered” in the books are very real. I remember being afraid of these things. Okay, honestly, I may still be afraid of dark basements and creaky closets. I am not sure the books helped me out either. So this may not be a matter of being age appropriate or not, but of overactive imaginations and a lack of rationality. Hopefully my daughter and I will be able to enjoy them without aftereffects in the future, but for now we are going to put the books away. And maybe read them one at a time, not one after another.
If the world represented in children’s books somehow became real, someone would probably ask to eat you at least once a week. I am unsure what is more disturbing, the act or the courtesy with which the question is usually posed. In Maurice Sendak’s Pierre: A cautionary tale in Five Chapters and a Prologue (the moral is, “care,” and it is fantastic) the lion not only repeatedly asks Pierre if he would mind being eaten, but also explains “And then you will be inside of me.” I guess if I were going to be consumed, I would appreciate the honesty? Big Black Bear (who is not really that big, he’s only three years old) informs his host-prey-friend that he has eaten other girls in Wong Herbert Yee’s Big Black Bear. In Martin Waddell and Leonie Lord’s The Super Hungry Dinosaur the dinosaur (who is super hungry) asks Hal if he could eat him, his mom, his dad, or his dog (strangely Hal replies no to all requests).
At the end of these stories the would-be-eater and the would-be-eaten usually end up friends. Manners will get you everywhere.
What would scare you more, someone trying to eat you or someone politely requesting to do so?
Multiple members of my family have the classic, much beloved Goodnight Moon memorized (by Margaret Wise Brown, pictures by Clement Hurd). The book has been parodied and commented on by many, but I have to add that it contains one of the scariest image-word combinations I have ever encountered (I read for a living). The more you say “Goodnight nobody” and stare at that blank page the scarier it becomes. The more you think about it, the more you wonder. You can try to move on quickly and just focus on the mush, but your eyes will drift back to the threateningly blank page. I use to read this to my daughter before she went to sleep, I had to stop because it made it impossible for me to sleep.