Welcome back from maternity leave to me!! I’ve just spent the last four months getting to know my new little one and she is pretty awesome. I have also spent the last few months reading a lot of children’s books to my son and daughter. What I’ve learned is that these books are nuts!!! It seems like every kids book I read has a weird message or story that does not make any sense to me as an adult. I took my favorites to share below. Warning! This post contains spoilers.
Teddy Bears Picnic - I liked this book and I even have a record that goes with it. But when you actually READ the story, good lord!! What a creepy plot! A kid sneaks in to the woods and sees teddy bears and has to wear a mask so that the teddy bears don’t catch them? That sounds like a horror movie in the making.
The Giving Tree - Oh. My. Gosh. I HATE the Giving Tree. Lots of people have different interpretations of this book and maybe my life experience has made me a bit more cynical but to me, this book is about an asshole man who takes and takes and takes. The woman (the tree) is supposed to just be happy but the guy keeps coming back complaining and taking more. The woman keeps saying it’s fine (but it’s really not) and then at the end, she’s super happy when HE’S finally happy with who she is even though by that point he’s worn her down to almost nothing. That, my friend, is a crap story and that tree needed to say “Fuck you boy. You cannot take my trunk, you have already taken my apples, leaves, and branches.”
Pout Pout Fish - Now, I was excited about buying the Pout Pout Fish. I wanted a book for my son where everyone and everything wasn’t happy. And it’s mostly a great book. But the book ends with a shiney fish swimming over and kissing the pout pout fish which turns him in to a happy fish! The moral of this story… physical love makes someone happy and without physical love from another, you can’t be happy. What a bummer moral.
This one I found at the library… the Berenstein Bears Tooth Fairy book (this isn’t the actual title but I can’t remember the exact title)- I remember this one from when I was a child. It was great. BUT it’s been redone. The best part of this book is when sister bear gets less money than her friend but more money than brother bear got a few years previously. The book goes on to explain fair market price and appreciation vs. depreciation comparing it to gas prices instead of using it as lesson explaining different people and different socioeconomic statuses or to appreciate what you get.
Sylvester’s Magic Pebble- This book is probably ok for a child but pretty traumatizing as an adult. Basically, a donkey finds a magic pebble that grants wishes. He’s out one day and gets scared and wishes he was a rock. He turns in to a rock and then can’t hold the pebble to make a wish and stays a rock!! (There is a happy ending when, years later, the dad picks up the pebble, sits on the rock and wishes he had Sylvester back.) As a parent, this story is about a child who gets lost!! It is a terrifying read for a mom. Makes me want to cry every time.
Sister Says No - This is an old book from my childhood but what most stands out to me is an utter parenting failure. Basically, the older brother has a play date and his little sister keeps saying no. At one point, the big brother and his friend decide to go in to his room so that they can play without his little sister controlling everything and the mom makes him open his door for his sister! I’m sorry, but let the poor kid play with his friend! And figure out something to do with the little sister who is obviously in the early toddler “no” phase.
Frederick - Frederick is actually one of my husband’s favorite children’s books but when I see Frederick, all I see is a lazy, totally stoned mouse. This mouse tells stories to keep his mouse family warm in the middle of winter once they’ve run out of food, but here’s what I think. If Frederick had just helped his family gather food and prepare for the winter, then maybe they wouldn’t be starving and freezing before winter was over.
I Just Forgot is another one from my childhood but honestly, I find it infuriating to read. It’s basically about a toddler who either forgets or doesn’t forget but just does what he wants. So sometimes he’s like, oh, I just forgot to do this and it made a big mess. Other times he’s like, I didn’t forget, I just don’t like doing that. Tell me, why would I want to read that to my son? All he’d do is get ideas.
Sam and the Firefly is a dangerous asshole who causes all sorts of issues by writing incorrect and misleading directions in the sky. And then, when he’s caught, we’re supposed to feel bad for him! I just don’t.
And now for my top stories…
The Little Engine That Could. THIS is a classic book. I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t know this story. What I didn’t pick up on though until recently is that all the trains that pass by the toys that need to get over the mountain to the children are men but the little engine is a woman. Basically, the books is about a bunch of selfish bros who won’t help a little train until the lady train comes along (it’s the only train referred to as a She) and believes in herself to get over the mountain. I guess this isn’t an annoying or frustrating book to read, just really interesting thinking about the role of pronouns in children’s literature.
And finally, The Sloth Slept On is about a sloth that a group of kids find who escaped from the zoo. They don’t realize he escaped from the zoo and so they send him back to the rainforest where he is from, but then the sloth wakes up and asks how to get back to the zoo. This is classic stockholm syndrome and this sloth actually has no idea how to live in it’s real habitat. I bet he’s eaten by a predator within five minutes.
And there you have it. My rant on ridiculous stories we read to our children. I bet there are dozens more.