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Using my words I will destroy you

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In The Paper Bag Princess (story by Robert N. Munsch and illustrations by Michael Martchenko) and Eileen Christelow’s Five Little Monkeys Wash a Car a less physically powerful, but smart princess/monkey is able to get a dragon/crocodiles to use up their strength using just words. The princess and the monkey ask the other more reptilian creatures to prove their might and in the process of proving their strength, they use up the energy they otherwise might have spent eating the princess/monkeys. A fox meanwhile uses his words to outwit and eat a Gingerbread Man in The Gingerbread Man (or at least Walt Kelly’s version of the Gingerbread Man, from Little Lit: Folklore & Fairy Tale Funnies). The gingerbread man is so fast he thinks no one can catch him; he is so excited to boast of this to the fox that he gets too close to him and ends up eaten. All of these stories offer some great little lessons (if you feel like looking for a lesson), using your intelligence you can do a lot even if you aren’t super strong, don’t rely too much on any one quality (strength, fire breathing, beauty, etc.), and, most of all, don’t have too much pride in that one quality — it will be your downfall. You will end up eaten or hungry. 

Update: May I eat you please, really?

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Slate article about lions eating children. 

Politeness of animals who want to eat children in children’s books.

Don’t Eat, Kiss.

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Children make you say the weirdest things and people have done some really cool stuff with this (see Design Inspiration’s post about Nathan Ripperger). For some reason, ever since she was little, my daughter has often tried to eat my face (go at it, Freud). When she was really little I think it had to do with comfort/exploration? (Feel free to analyze the photo yourself.) Now, I think (hope) she is kidding around. Regardless I don’t really want to use my face as a testing ground for how serious she is when she comes at me, roaring with her mouth open as if she is going to eat me. So we say “Don’t eat mommy, kiss and hug.” She often repeats this “Don’t eat the mommy, kiss.” The other day as we were reading Michael Garland’s Miss Smith’s Incredible Storybook, she started yelling “Don’t eat, kiss!!” at the wolf. So my daughter is identifying with the wolf and I am in the place of terrified Little Red Riding Hood? She really thinks the big bad wolf should kiss Little Red? I am terrified.

Say what? From Fox in Socks

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Rhymes sometimes result in pictures or sayings that I find more confusing (and occasionally disturbing) than fun. Why does Luke Luck have a strange moustache? What is up with moustaches in children’s books more generally? Why does Luke Luck like taking licks in the lake duck likes? What relationship do Luke Luck and the duck have? Why are their eyes closed? Is Luke Luck lucky? What do they do when they aren’t taking licks? Or is that all they do? Does this lake in particular have some special qualities besides the regular hydrating ones? Please stare at this picture for five minutes and let me know if you have any answers.

“You just ate my baby” (or “don’t read this book while eating chicken”)

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That’s right! It is a whole series of posts about being eaten! From children in ovens, to grandmothers in wolves, to polite carnivores, to. . .  reality? In a number of books animals talk about how humans are going to eat them. In Jan Brett’s Hedgie’s Surprise, Tomten eats hen’s eggs. He doesn’t only eat them, he asks her each morning, “Henny! Have you got a little yummy for my hungry, hungry tummy?” Hen doesn’t really mind that her babies are being eaten (or that Tomten just seems generally really annoying) until she sees Goosey-Goosey’s goslings, her biological clock starts ticking (or whatever it is that happens to hens that want to have babies instead of letting them be eaten), and then she tries to find a way to save her eggs. In Ruth V. Gross’s retelling of The Bremen Town Musicians, the rooster worries about having his head chopped off and being put into soup. Humans (or human like creatures in the case of Tomten) are inherently bad in many of these tales, partially because of their cruelty to animals. And, by cruelty I mean completely normal behavior. 

May I eat you, please?

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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?

I’m ALIVE! Can I get you anything?

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The ending of this version of Little Red Riding Hood, by Andrea Wisnewksi (retold and illustrated) scares me because it is what I imagine my daughter’s grandma (my mom) would do if she were recently cut out of a wolf’s stomach: offer my daughter something to eat or a fun game to play. Why sit and recover from having recently been digested if you could instead whip a little something up for your darling granddaughter?