Sunday, March 04, 2007

and don't get me started on elmo....

dear people who write children's books (that would be "children's book authors", huh? leave me alone, i'm tired),

hi. listen, can you do me a favor? can you stop making books about obnoxious little animals/people who i want to smack upside the head? seriously. cause otherwise your books are going to get hidden away way back behind the extra towels on the shelf in my closet until wile learns to read and can enjoy your stories without me.

you want examples? okay, how about olivia. little pig, big ears, spoiled brat. why is this book so popular? it's not funny! it's not entertaining! why do i want to read about some ugly little pig yelling and kvetching and bossing? especially since olivia's parents give in to her whims and seem to condone her totally crappy behavior! why in the hell would anyone think that i would want to give voice to dialogue like this:

wile is getting quite proficient at the yelling, he really doesn't need any encouragement.... so, okay, olivia freaks the hell out over the missing toy, berates and apparently scares the bejeezus out of her little brother, yells at everything that moves, and then when she finds the toy, slightly mangled from the dog chewing on it, and has another screaming fit, her dad says "oh, don't worry honey, we'll get you an even better toy tomorrow", at which point she turns around and is all "oh i love you you're the best daddy ever." i....i'm at a loss. honestly.

and then there's this one:

so duck and goose spend the whole book fighting over this ball that they think is an egg, yelling at each other and being mean to each other. they finally come to a sort of unspoken truce—at least, they stop yelling at each other—only to turn around and act like a couple of little turds to this poor blue bird who comes to talk to them, trying to get their attention by kicking the ball (egg):

it's just so.....unpleasant. and do they ever apologize to the poor litle blue bird who's head they ripped off? nope! she apologizes to them for bothering them! and then they run off and play with the ball—without her. lovely.

i'm certainly not saying that all children's book characters should be perfect little models of decorum. some of our favorite books are about characters who are definitely troublemakers.

like everyone's favorite, good night gorilla.

he steals the keys, he lets all the animals loose, he follows the zookeeper home, and when he's discovered and sent back to his cage? not only is he unrepentant, he sneaks right back out again and back into bed with the zookeeper and his wife! but he never verbally abuses any of the other characters. i never have to give voice to him putting anybody down or flying off the handle. he's mischevious, but he's not a jerk.

and then there's the awesome (and amazingly illustrated) book that dexter's mom gave wile, 17 things i' not allowed to do anymore. this girl is definitely hell on wheels.'s funny! (i mean really, beavers? hysterical.) and none of the things she does—doing a history report on beavers instead of george washington, walking backwards to school, showing her classmate her underwear—are mean-spirited, they're all just kinda kooky and creative and limit-testing. okay, so she staples her brother's hair to his pillow. but i can see the thought process behind that: will it really work? can staples hold hair, or would the hair just slip out? and her mom is there throughout the book, obviously telling her she's not allowed to do this stuff anymore, and getting more and more frazzled as the book goes on, which is nice to see.

but in the end, the girl is unrepentent and definitely on the path to more mischeif, and that's fine by me. look, i'm not asking for morals. i don't need for wile to learn a lesson from his picture books. and believe me, the overly-earnest books, where everyone literally or figuratively has a group hug at the end, squick me out even more.

i just want some characters who i don't mind spending time with. i have to personify these little animals. give me something better to work with than screeching pigs and huffy ducks.

go to it!


casey said...

i think the antidote to olivia is cautionary tales for children. seriously. it's awesome.

okay, maybe not exactly a kids' book, but... yeah.

hey mama said...

nice call. there will definitely be some edward gorey in wile's future....

Anonymous said...

i was unaware that they were writing books for little boys about beavers. isn't that a little inappropriate?

hey mama said...

it's never too early to learn about beavers.