My Fresh Hell
Life in Scribbletown.

Book Chat

2005-06-15
Yesterday, despite the 110 degree heat and the lack of car a/c, Dusty, Red and I took a trip to the tiny branch library. I signed Dusty up for their summer reading contest – read 30 books (or, in her case, have them read to her) by August and win a free book. This should take us about, oh, two days to reach this goal? Seeing as how I read about 10 to her yesterday, this’ll be a piece of cake.

Lately, Dusty’s noticed similar themes in her books and it’s made me wonder why these are so popular and what they say about our subconscious that we need to tell these stories over and over.

Theme #1 is the idea of being swallowed whole (think: Jonah). We see this in Pierre (swallowed by a lion because he doesn’t care) by Maurice Sendak, and Red Riding Hood. Dusty and I have had long conversations about how this can’t really happen in real life – her concern, not mine – and that, were you to really be swallowed by a lion or a wolf, you’d actually be chewed up in pieces and, ultimately, would be dead. Where does this come from? Is it drawn from the idea of a baby inside the mother that “comes out whole?”

The second theme is escaping the zoo. Dusty’s noticed that Curious George, Sammy the Seal and Goodnight Gorilla all leave or escape their zoo homes (Sammy actually asks permission for a short furlough and then finds that he prefers to be held captive by The Man.) which is more understandable and speaks more to children (ya know, escaping the parental yoke and all those rules) than the whole being-eaten-alive thing. What fear does that play to? I’m not sure.

Dusty’s also really into her Madeline books, in no little part because she share’s the French vixen’s given name, but she’s particularly fascinated by Pepito, The Bad Hat. She’s taken to drawing a series of pictures of Madeline (representing herself), Miss Clavel (me), and Pepito (her dad – ha!). Red sometimes gets to be Genevieve, the dog.

What I personally find disturbing are the Curious George books. Why is curiosity considered bad? He’s actually more mischievous than curious. Poor little monkey. He’s only doing what little monkeys naturally do and he always gets punished. Maybe it’s this idea of being misunderstood and constantly thwarted that speaks to children. But I really wish curiosity wasn’t treated as a bad thing. This is also true of the Olivia books. Olivia, for the uninitiated, is a spirited little pig with a huge imagination that is always being crushed by her more middle-class, traditionally-minded mother. Why is creativity a bad thing?

There’s something insidious going on here, a message I don’t like. Maybe I’m making too much out of it.

Oh, and the counselor visit went okay, I guess. I left feeling like my parenting philosophy was under attack. Who knows. I go back in two weeks, by which time I’m sure I’ll be over this feeling. Or, maybe not.

Either way, Red turns ONE tomorrow (zoicks!!) and I’ve got a party to prepare for and a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting to bake.

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12:08 p.m. ::
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