Monday, February 26, 2007

Review: If You Were My Baby

I received some books today from Dawn Publications, a small press specializing in positive books about nature for children. This is my favorite:

If You Were My Baby by Fran Hodgkins. Illustrated by Laura J. Bryant.
Dawn, 2007 (978-15469-090-0) $7.95 board

The familiar picture book pairing of adult and baby animals is used here for an easy, unforced introduction to animal habits and habitats. "If you were my baby possum," says the narrator, "I would carry you on my back As you learn your way in the world." "If you were my baby deer, I would help you learn to step lightly And find sweet flowers and tender grasses." Finally, the narrator will help his own baby "climb your own mountains, And delight with you in nature's wonders. But first, I'll tuck you in." The warm yet lighthearted text is well matched by pen & ink and watercolors pictures that maintain a mostly naturalistic air, but give friendly, curious and loving expressions to the animals; touches of cool blues and lavenders add brightness to the browns and greens of furs and forests. (1-4) (Also available in hardcover.)

scrotums and Haman and racism, oh my!

This "High Power of Lucky" commentary from "the Brookeshelf" became particularly funny after watching "Idiocracy" last night. (About a future in which everyone in the U.S. is an idiot and the most popular t.v. show is called "Ow! My balls!")

Evan says the creator of "Beavis and Butthead" has some nerve making "Idiocracy." I say, the creator of "Beavis and Butthead" had to make "Idiocracy."

Also at the Brookshelf, though sadly not scrotum-related, is this lovely review of Elizabeth Enright's classic, The Saturdays.


So I've been encountering a lot of weird censorship issues lately. Just the status quo for a modern parent? The other day, while reading Sammy Spider's First Purim at our temple preschool, I saw that "wicked" had been blacked out. Is that perhaps taking a commitment to anti-bias education a little too far? Isn't Haman's wickedness kind of necessary to the story of Purim? What the heck are the groggers for without that?

Then I got home and at the end of the fifth chapter of Little House in the Big Woods encountered a song which begins:

"There was an old darkey
And his name was Uncle Ned,
And he died long ago, long ago.
There was no wool on the top of his head,
In the place where the wool ought to grow."

Yi! I had expected to have to provide more balanced informations on Indians as we read the book--and have already had to provide more balanced information on wolves! (Farley Mowat would be proud of me.) But I wasn't expecting that. I dealt with it in my usual cowardly fashion, saying I didn't know the tune to that song and ending the chapter.

Loving classic children's books means having to deal with these unpleasant surprises, and I don't think anyone has come up with a perfect solution. I have a set of the lightly edited "Books of Wonder" edition "Oz" books all waiting for my son--animouse convinced me these were a good idea, because the hell with the children, she doesn't like having to read stuff like the above--but there has yet to be a rewritten version of the Doctor Dolittle books that didn't destroy them. I don't know if there has been an updated version of LHitBW; I don't know how I'd feel about it if there were. These books are someone's memories, after all. Does it destroy something about the books to substitute another song? And if we start, where do we stop? Look at the censored Doctor Dolittle's Post Office and the answer seems to be, "we don't." Even the mention of race was deemed inappropriate.

There is only one thing I know for sure about this: I will not be going to the library and demanding they remove Little House in the Big Woods. Not even if I come across a scrotum.