5 Children's Books That Need to be Exposed
My daughter is nearing the four-month mark, far too early to be comprehending the books we read to her; however, routines are fun and apparently a good thing to “implement” so we do it. I was also recently appointed “bedtime guy” by my wife, so I deliver the bath, read a book or two, and put her down. Though I love reading to my daughter, some of these books are just plan crazy. It’s time I broke my silence on the madness that is children’s literature.
1. Hop On Pop, by Dr. Seuss
It’s clear to anyone who has read Dr. Seuss that the man was undoubtedly tripping on LSD throughout his writing career; when you’re dreaming up stories about Loraxes and Whoos and dogs driving various forms of transportation, this is the only logical conclusion. Despite all the naysayers, drugs have given us some of the world’s best art, from Dr. Seuss to Jimmy Hendrix to Van Gogh (Stay tuned for my next post: Are Drugs Really That Bad?!).
This book provides some great introduction to vocabulary and prepositional phrases “PUP, CUP – cup on pup” but makes almost no sense as a whole. The plot – if you can call it that – is a roller coaster of the disaster variety. On one page, a character named Red is in a twin bed all by himself, and on the next page, Red finds himself in a king-sized bed with Ned, Ted, and Ed. I’m both confused and personally offended by this wickedness! And how did Red find all of these “friends” whose names happen to rhyme?!? The next page features characters we were never properly introduced to playing BALL on top of a very skinny WALL. Three guesses what happens next?! That’s right, they ALL FALL OFF THE WALL. I cannot bear to continue teaching such lessons to my pure and innocent daughter.
2. Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratney
This book, unlike Hop on Pop, mercifully presents a simple yet airtight plot. It centers around a little “nutbrown hare” (I will refrain from further comment on this name) who tells his father, the big nutbrown hare, how much he loves him by stretching out his arms. The big nutbrown hare one-ups him by virtue of having larger arms, with the effect that it becomes obvious the father will always love the son more. There is one clear lesson, kids: You’ll never be able to beat your parents at anything, so don’t even try.
3. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle
Before I offer my critique, I will mention one positive about this story: the book offers some solid education about science and language. We begin with an egg, which turns into a caterpillar which—spoiler alert—becomes a butterfly. We learn days of the week, food names, and counting. Honestly, it’s been a good refresher for me.
The caterpillar’s diet is where this book really falls off the rails. On Monday, he’s eating an apple. On Tuesday, he’s eating two pears. I’m all good so far. He eats fruit the rest of the weekdays, but what does he do on Saturday?! He stuffs cake, ice cream, pie, sausage, pickles, cupcakes, and watermelon in his body. To make his tummy feel better, he chews through a green leaf, and POOF. Within a page, he’s all better! What a false sense of safety for our children! This is right up there with the absurdity of Elmer Fudd living through devastating dynamite explosions and gunshot wounds. I will not stand for this unhealthy portrayal of dieting and completely irrational view of the body’s digestive system. We need to RECALL this book!!!
4. The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter
This book is about four rabbit siblings: Flopsy Mopsy, Cotton-tail and Peter. Before the story can even begin, I am already distracted by these absurd names. I can only assume Peter is the youngest and Mr. and Mrs. Rabbit were sick of taking flack from their friends for choosing crazy ass names for their kids. Can you imagine the scene? Other rabbit parents are like “Jeff, I know we’re all rabbits, but Flopsy? Have some respect for your family!”
This is a real Garden of Eden story. Mrs. Rabbit tells the kids not to go into their neighbor’s garden, but “naughty Peter” goes anyway. After getting tied up by a thorny gooseberry bush, he hides in a watering can. Are you catching these Biblical themes? Peter eventually escapes with his life and makes it back home; however, he is treated only to a cup of chamomile tea while his sisters (THEY’RE ALL GIRLS?!?) get a nice heaping dinner of bread, milk and blackberries.
Every time I read this story I’m shocked at the level of sadness – and the lack of a “happy” ending. It does provide a solid lesson for children (if you disobey your parents you will probably find yourself chained to a prickly bush and forced to drink tea), but where’s the New Testament hope?!?
5. Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown
The first half of this book is a list of things that are in a bedroom, and the second half consists of saying goodnight to those things. Our main character is an unnamed young bunny lying in a bed. The walls are green, there’s a balloon, cats, a mouse, and an old woman sitting across the room knitting and whispering “hush.” Um, what?! Jordan Peele, are you catching this? Sounds like an excellent premise for your next horror film.
The one bright spot, for me, is the blank-white page that simply reads, “goodnight nobody.” It’s classic humor and is very well-placed. We’re already saying goodnight to the moon, cats, and mouse, but the author decided to add in a quick, “Also, shout-out to noooooobodyyyy!” As it turns out, nobody is who this little bunny will be saying goodnight to after she’s murdered by the old lady, who will almost certainly still be whispering “hush.”