When a Good Story Hour Goes Bad
If you’re a loyal follower (and I have to assume you are), you’ve read my kiddie lit reviews. And because you have an amazing memory and my random musings take priority in your brain, you remember my thoughts on some of the…shall we say, um, weirdness in children’s books. Fine, if you don’t remember, click here for an example. Really, what is up with that old lady in the rocking chair?
Anyway, I read a hilarious blog post the other day that inspired me to raise this issue again. I recently befriended (literally, on facebook) mommy blogger Clare (a friend of Muffintop Mommy if you’ve been paying attention). Clare writes “it’s all good in the mother(hood).” You have to read her stuff — good, clean (well, mostly) fun. Click here to read Clare’s post called “You’re going on a BEAR Hunt? Dude. What’s up with that?” Her hilarious reflection on the children’s book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt will literally have you LOL. (Oh, and try to get past the fact that Clare has four children and looks like a twenty-year-old supermodel. No fairsies. Must be something in that Ohio water.)
Clare’s post conjured up a recent memory of story hour at the library. The “Mother Goose on the Loose” program (an early literacy program) is fantastic; Boo Boo loves it what with its songs, rhymes, books, and interactive approach. You should’ve seen him the day we read Good Night, Moon. You’d have thought a celebrity walked in the room. Pure bliss!
But two weeks ago, things turned dark with a nursery rhyme I’ve never heard before. Apparently I’m alone in this. I googled it and it seems to be a classic. Well, I’m glad my mom never sang it to us. I’d still be having nightmares. Totally not the jumping on the bed monkeys. These monkeys are of the teasing variety. And boy, this rhyme has one message and one message only — you tease, you die. No really. If you’re not familiar with “Five Little Monkeys Swinging in a Tree,” you must click here to view. Even if you do know it, click anyway if only to see the crazy lady re-enact the whole thing to get the full effect. It’s worse with the puppets, right? Well, our librarian did the re-enactment, too (but with three monkeys…budget cuts). So imagine three little monkey puppets and one big alligator. Bad news. And if you know anything about my Boo, his best friend is a monkey. He’s stuffed and loved and Boo can’t sleep without him. In our family, you don’t mess with monkeys — even with teasing, obnoxious monkeys. I got pretty close to covering Boo’s eyes during the performance. Violent. Tragic. No one deserves such a fate.
And before I had time to get over the monkey incident, we moved on to the actual book of the day. Its title? Feathers for Lunch. This can’t be good. Basic plot: hungry cat tries to catch a bird to eat for lunch. Nice. Bird is fast. Bird gets away and cat gets feathers. What the hell, people? I can’t make this stuff up. And don’t be fooled by the picture on the cover. Oh sure, the bird escapes death, but this is not a nice story.
Where are the nice stories? The happy stories? Surely more than one reference to death during a program designed for infants really isn’t appropriate. Am I wrong? I’m not trying to shelter my child. I’m just trying to keep him off the psychiatrist’s couch for another couple of years, ya know? So please, children’s writers and librarians of the world, help a sister out. Let’s make a pact. How ’bout we’ll keep reading to our kids and you keep the death/murder/nightmare-inducing themes to a minimum? At least until they’re four years old and can fully handle the weightiness of the issues, ‘kay? Deal?