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My child may be psychic

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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.

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?

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.

Good little monkey?

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I’ve also mentioned my daughter’s love of monkeys (in addition to monkeys she loves dogs, one of her first words, and lions and bears and, okay all stuffed animals, make that all animals). As you can probably guess we often read books about that famous monkey, Curious George. A fair number of the more recent Curious George books follow this pattern: George is a good little monkey and always very curious. The man in the yellow hat tells George not to do something. George does it. Chaos. Then something wonderful happens because of the chaos. So it turns out to be good that George didn’t listen and the world is made better because of it. I fully support curiosity, but also think George should listen to the man in the yellow hat, he really does know what is best, George. And, George, to be completely honest — I don’t understand why you are described as good. Good as in you don’t bite people? Good as in inherently good in your monkey soul? Because you are kind of naughty. I have a vague impulse to go through the Curious George books of this type and at least change that first “and” to a “but,” or just add a “not.” George was a good little monkey, but always very curious. George was not a good little monkey and always very curious. I restrain myself because I don’t want my daughter to think drawing on books is okay (generally, there are exceptions of course), but I also don’t want her to think not listening to me is okay and will ultimately make the world a better place. Not reading the books at all is not an option, since my daughter loves them, which brings us full circle back to the beginning of this post and the intensity of her monkey love. The Curious George book pictured is Margret & H. A. Rey’s Curious George Takes a Train (illustrated in the style of H.A. Rey by Martha Weston). If you want to know what sort of trouble George got up to in the train station you’ll have to check it out yourself.