First there was a Man. Then a Woman. Then in quick succession, two cats, a confused dog beast, and two kids. I stay at home with them. I'm the Man

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Children's Literature: Evil? Or Really Evil?

Reading to the kids is great, right? Read, read, read.  We learn together and snuggle together. Build closeness, vocabulary, conversation skills, and critical thinking. Not to mention literacy.

I was so happy, so excited to introduce them to my favorites from childhood, reintroduce myself to the same, and to discover--as a family-- authors and books I'd never read before. I was a naive ponce.

These books have the darkest of dark sides. I wish someone had warned me. For example:.

Curious George: Up until recently, I'd only read modern Curious George sequels. Curious George and The Genetically Modified Banana. Curious George Goes to Yoga. That kind of thing. Or I watched the cartoon with my kids (William H. Macy is the narrator, making it the only thing he's ever been involved with where he doesn't play the most depressing guy ever).

I read the original Curious George to the kids the other day. Here's what happens in that book: The Man In The Yellow Hat captures George by taking advantage of his natural curiosity. On a whim he does this, by the way. He's visiting the jungles of Africa and he decides, "Fuck it. I'll take home a wild monkey." Yeah, that's called poaching.

George takes off up a tree when he sees this strange yellow-white man. So the Man puts his hat on the ground. He figures that George will be so curious he won't be able to help himself, and he'll come down to investigate. Which he does. Which is why the book isn't titled Intelligent George. 

So, he grabs the monkey and lets him run free on the ship he's taking back to New York. The "sad"  monkey then attempts to kill himself by throwing himself off of the ship and into the ocean. They say that George jumped because he was just so "curious"about seagulls and their power of flight, he wanted to fly too. C'mon. He'd never seen a bird before? In the Jungle? Plus, we're talking about a fast moving steam ship and an age when psychiatrists recommended electric shock for a bad case of the mondays. The monkey was suicidal.

They get him back to NY, and he escapes. The Man With The Yellow Hat  being incredibly responsible. 

They finally catch him and throw him in maximum security prison. He escapes. Again. By taking out a prison guard.  They finally catch him once for all after he's been on the streets for a while, gets mugged twice, and starts self-medicating with heroin (Subtext).  The book ends with him "happily" being locked up in a zoo. And of course by "happily" they mean "on lithium."

Maybe I'm mistaken. Maybe the zoo is a much better option than the jungle where he spent his entire life before the Man With The Yellow Hat kidnapped him and sold him into captivity. Dance monkey. The people paid good money.*

I believe the second Curious George book is called, "Curious George and the Cancer Experiment," but that's from memory.

George seen here being led to his fate by some sort of quasi-military police unit.
Apparently after being beaten with a phone.

Green Eggs and Ham:Let's just sum it up like this: Sam-I-Am is presented as a charitable, suffering being who follows his friend all over the country trying to force feed him in all manner of odd and creepy places. Sam-I-Am is definitely a stalker and probably a rapist. I'm all for trying new things, but even at breakfast, no means no.

"Could you would you with a goat?" indeed. Pervert.
Could you would you tied to a chair in my basement?

While we're mentioning Dr. Seuss, let's mention The Lorax: We're led to believe this book may be the first conservationist children's book. A person hiding in a defunct factory tells a traveler the story of how he and his family came to the area, deforested it, polluted it, and then left. The Lorax was the character who kept trying to warn them. In the end, the traveler is offered the one seed that was saved in order that he might replant. Is this not the story of how the logging industry fucked things up? Clear cut a forest and then plant new saplings and tell everyone they've got it under control. Nice try. It's all about old growth forests. You can't support an eco-system on saplings, you son of a bitch. And hey Lorax, thanks for the series of sad-sacky warnings, but how about filing an injunction and going to the press next time? You blew it. And your mustache looks like shit.

I apologize for that last line. I shouldn't have let it get personal.

Awww, what an adorable little corporate propagandist

Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad day: I got this one off of a top 100 books for kids list. Let me understand this, please. The kid wakes up in a foul, shitty mood, goes through his day in a foul, shitty mood, and goes to bed in a foul, shitty mood. So this book is either about rampant parental permissiveness or ignored and undiagnosed childhood depression. Awesome. We read this book at the library. We didn't take it home. Why? Because my daughter said to me, "Daddy, I don't want that crabby book." Amen to that, swee'pea.

Depressed child or spoiled little prick?
Your guess is as good as mine.

There are others I'm not mentioning and many many more that I have yet to read. I will continue to read these twisted tombs and to report my findings in this space. We parents have got to stick together against the forces of darkness. Not to mention literacy.

Homemaker Man

*You read that right. He was kidnapped in Africa. Put on a ship. Taken to America. He escapes, does a stint in prison and ends up set "free" in a zoo. I am not making any of this up. It's all in the book.

Here's where I got the pics:


  1. This was hilarious! *snort*

    I had to ban my seven yr old from Curious George. He was getting way too many bad influences from that monkey!

    "Would you could you with a goat?"

    *double snort*

    Hey! Where's the stumbleupon button around here? This definitely deserves a stumble! Fine make me work to stumble you! Yeesh! *smile*

  2. Woops! I found the button!

  3. childrens stories used to be all kinds of fucked up. Boyfriend's daughter had Pinocchio on the other day, which i don't remember ever seeing before. well, needless to say that resulted in night terrors. for me, obviously.

    and i never understood the attraction (see: Cult-lilke following) with Where the Wild Things Are. i started to watch the movie recently but got bored with the brat on my tv screen who was hanging out with cuckoo looking monsters. so i tried my hand at the book instead (if it's 100 words or less, i'm there). i've got one word for you: BORRRRRING.

  4. I can't wait for the next instalment of what should be a regular series. There's some zany (and you can guess what I mean by zany) stuff that gets through publishers. Of course that's a coked up world, so we shouldnt be surprised.

  5. That was very funny and well done! Please tell Quirky Loon to leave my button alone. Have I said too much?

  6. OMG that was SO FUNNY! You are totally right about Curious George. Suicide! So Sad!

  7. ::snorted discreetly to avoid upsetting the spouse watching the tube::

    Can't wait until you read & review "Horton Hatches a Who." That's a piece a work. Negligent mother (read: heroin addicted); court battle for custody; it gets uglier from there. Come to think of it, every Horton book goes poorly.

  8. Oh, pleeeeeze -- review some more!!

    I do like a lot of the old books, but hey, Francis the Badger ("Bread and Jam for Francis") is threatened with actual spanking if she doesn't stay in bed. Fine people, there...

  9. That's why they don't call him Intelligent George? Brilliant! Silly little monkey!

  10. Excellent reviews. I think publishers should print your summaries on the back jackets of these books- they might get a whole new audience!

  11. HA!!! So true. I can't count the number of times I have said WTF while reading a book to the kids... or debated going improv to edit around things.

  12. We had the same reaction to that George story. "You dirty Poacher!" Anyway Lukas wanted it read quite a bit for a while there. Mrs. LIAYF just changed the word. "The Man with the Yellow Hat is giving George a Warm coat" (rather than throwing a sack over his head.)

  13. @ Quirky Thanks for the stumble!

    @YLIDHAG Those old tales are all kinds of effed up. I had to edit rapunzel the other day because the prince in the story goes blind when he jumps out a 3 story window and lands face first in a giant thorn bush.

    @Canadad Wow that explains alot.

    @Eva Yes

    @SL I know. Monkey depression is some serious shit. Thanks.

    @Cheryl Oh, go ahead and disturb that spouse.

    @MOTV That sounds like a good book to read during a bad tantrum.

    @Boom Boom Silly little kidnapped monkey.

    @Linda My new cottage industry

    @Tek I do that with the Peanut now pretty often

    @James Great minds etc etc. Good edit!

  14. Very good stuff, HM. Pop by my site and click the "Whatever Happened To" tab . . . for more on Curious George and Sam-I-Am.

  15. I await your arrival to chapter books and your take on Captain Underpants.

  16. I read "James and the Big Peach" to Thing 2 last summer. He was frightened of his aunt for three weeks afterward.

  17. Read "The Twits" by R. Dahl. It's excellent (and twisted).

  18. Curious George is a selfish little bastard. I loved that Alexander kid when I was a kid. He was just like me.

  19. Good work, man! We need to keep this kind of scholarship going. I've been pondering over Goodnight Moon for months, but you've inspired me to get off my ass and actually write about it. (I've done a bunch of analyses of kid lit on my blog, if you're interested--check key words "rhetorical analysis" and "literary analysis.")

  20. Great, now we are going to have to burn our library of classic children's books. This is exactly why, in our home, we stick to books like The Gas We Pass, The Story of Farts by Shinta Cho. Simple. Educational. Oops,I just looked at the second page where the dad and son are farting in the bathtub...together. Good bye Gas We Pass:-(

  21. I always found Curious George disturbing as a child.

  22. OMG too funny. My daughter would never let me read Dr. Seuss to her nor does she participate in the Dr, Seuss reading project in school. Intelligent beyond her years? There are some wonderful books written by Jamie Lee Curtis like " Big Words for Little People". My daughter loved learning these words and began to use them properly. The Literacy Society have removed the wrong children's books from the shelves.

  23. Preach tell dat

    Children's book authors come in three varieties:

    twisted communist
    mentally ill adult subject reject
    narcissistic celebrity

    Ever read the Disney Princess stories? I have three daughters, so I'm kinda sorta almost an expert. It's all whacked, misogyny, and perverted female body image projections.

    Or then again, I could be wrong and it's light hearted fun for my kids to absorb. Have anice weekend.


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