Sugar here. I haven’t posted in a while, but, hey, I’m still here, mostly reading along as Bionic writes. I’ve been feeling a bit sad myself, these days. I wouldn’t have thought of our library of children’s books as an emotional minefield, but it turns out that, yes, I can just start crying in the middle of say, Where Does the Garbage Go? Because why? Don’t ask kid, it’s too depressing.
Some favorites of the Bean that can really get me down while I try to read cheerfully along:
Bob and Otto: screw you, famous, successful friend
Oh the Places You’ll Go: or not. or we’re just all in the waiting place forever.
Giraffes Can’t Dance: but what if the music you love doesn’t pay enough to support you?
Frederick: isn’t this book about starving to death in winter?
Where does the garbage go? oh god, I don’t want to think about landfills.
Then there are the books that don’t push immediate emotional buttons, but I wonder about the wisdom of reading. Sure, it’s great that the Bean loves books and loves cars and loves trains and wants to combine those loves. But. Danger at the Dieselworks, which keeps coming home from the library, has the worst subtext ever. (Don’t go hang out with those bad kids on the other side of the tracks. They are scary and mean because they are poor and have nasty stuff. Also, they shouldn’t try to challenge authority either, because authority always means well…ahem) Does the Bean ever ask me questions about this set up? No! Instead he wants to know why the Giraffe in Giraffe’s Can’t Dance learns to dance so quickly. (Because he doesn’t. He never learns to dance. Now can we talk about systemic racism?)
I am also bothered by the fact that all books based on the Disney Cars franchise just make no actual sense. They contain many sentences, but no sentence relates to any other. Can it be good to read something that looks like a book, but acts like performance art?
Then there’s the work of changing the pronouns in Good Night Good Night Construction Site so that every other vehicle is a girl (come on, would it have been so hard to have even one girl in that book?). I keep imagining a scenario where the Bean is old enough to read, catches me out, and tells Jackalope, who also loves trucks, that all the trucks in the book are really boys. I hope he proves me wrong on this one.
Finally, there are books that fall into the category of questionable psychology. For instance, Alexander and the No Good, Very Bad Day confuses me. His day is bad. It doesn’t get better. Alexander was published in 1972. I have this sense that in the 70s gritty, slightly depressing realism was thought to be good for a person, kind of like eating fiber but for the brain. But does this hold up? Do we still need to do this?
Perhaps the 80s were worse: In Gregory the Terrible Eater (published 1980) a goat’s parents encourage him to binge eat so that he will feel terrible and stop overeating. Not only is this MESSED UP, but, as a former binge eater, I can tell you it won’t work.
It is not all horrors, of course. The Bean recently became enchanted with The Z was Zapped (the only difficult question — what is kidnapping, mommy?) so I am anticipating beginning to reread some books I really loved, like The Garden of Abdul Gasazi. And the Bean made an awesome book for the Jackalope the other day, for when she needs to be cheered up, he said. It is called Peekaboo Daniel, has two pages, and features a surprise picture of Daniel Tiger (Jackalope’s favorite) when you open it up.