05 June 2009

Reading Aloud Crankiness

Pretty much every night, I read three books to the girlie before bed. Most of the books in rotation are ones I love and I appreciate - after all, as long as I'm doing the reading, I'd better like the books.

But there are a handful that push my buttons, even some of the ones I really like. Madeline, for example, is a great kid's book. The illustrations are charming, the protagonist is plucky, the text is fun to read. In it, as you must know, twelve little girls live in an old house in Paris, until Madeline gets carted off to the hospital to have her appendix removed. Twelve minus one is eleven. So why are there twelve girls eating dinner when Madeline is still in the hospital? It irks me when I see it - I like accuracy at all times.



Not too long ago, I won a copy of a book called Princess Bubble in a contest on The Girl Revolution. It's good - it's all about showing girls that they don't need a prince to live happily ever after. But there's one sentence that curdles my blood every time I see it - so much so that I leave the offending two words out (though I haven't yet gotten out a Sharpie). I ask you, why was it necessary to include "loving god" in a statement as to how to find true happiness? I realize that I'm a heathen pagan atheist, but that gratuitous "loving god" bit rankles me.



What gets your goat in your kid's books?

35 comments:

slouchy said...

I never noticed that about Madeline! Must go find my copy... Lucky I don't have to read it to anyone anymore, because that will now bother me forever.

Thanks, M. Thanks a lot. :)

liz said...

That picture in Madeline gets me every time. The hairs on my neck stand up!

MS's pet peeve is the page with all the moon pictures in The Little House. They're backwards.

BarbaraCA said...

Curious George. My son loved the series, and I understand it's the tantalizing draw of a monkey child doing chaotic, naughty things. But OHMYGOD all I could think about every time I read them was that they glamorized imperialism and animal cruelty. And the Thomas The Tank Engine books were all so prissy. I wanted some kick-ass girl train to come through and shake everyone up.

FreshHell said...

Oh, AMEN, on that last one. I constant edit books that I read outloud. Problem is, eventually they learn to read...

Red has a current favorite book (fortunately a library book) called something like Miss Fanny's Hat. She is a bible-reading, church-going granny who donates her favorite hat to the church auction. Otherwise a very nice book. But the whole church issue rankles. I try not to let it bother me because Red likes the cats in the illustration who are always wearing Miss Fanny's hat. They make her giggle. The church/bible issue rolls right off her back. But I can't wait to return it to the library!!

Anjali said...

It drives me mad that all the kids are white in childrens picture books. With the except of books that specifically discuss or highlight culture, there are virtually no brown children. (Thank goodness for books like Snowy Day where the main character is black.)

The same thing is true for middle fiction and young adult fiction. Ugh.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

The Dinosailors/Dinotrain books. Every other word is dino-something. "Dinosailors are dinotough!" They stow dinogear. On and on... I think the pictures are hilarious, though, so I make up text myself.

painted maypole said...

i totally respect your right to leave out the "loving God" part, but for me that IS a big part of my life's joy, and I would love that it's in a book (and I know that Tracee at Girl Revolution is a church going gal herself, so she probably likes it, too)

i really get disgruntled by books that use words like stupid and dumb and hate.... things I don't let me daughter say. i don't books to give her examples of how to use them against other people... even if they are embedded in a character that is clearly doing something wrong.

abby said...

I grew up with the Richard Scary books and was thrilled when my sister bought a stack for my kids. I now am hiding them, as the gender stereotypes are horrible. of course, hd LOVES them, so it's a battle. maybe we'll just discuss why in our house daddy makes breakfast while mom sits on her butt drinking coffee.

The LIbrary Lady said...

You're right about the Madeline thing. Though it really didn't matter when SC was little because I used to mostly RECITE the books after we'd turned the lights off and I was trying to get her to go to sleep!

Anjali, there ARE a lot more picture books with black, brown,yellow, etc children in them than there used to be. Head for a library and ask a children's librarian for help!

Because of the need for multiculturalism, a lot of books used anthropomorphized animals instead. I can take that only just so far--sometimes it works but sometimes it doesn't at all.

And I hate, hate, HATE crappy series that try to teach "morals" and "manners" or solve problems in a badly written story that hits you over the head with the answers like a sledge hammer.

Number one being the "Berenstain Bears". FEH!

Anjali said...

Library Lady,

I have asked librarians and people who work at bookstores. A lot of books with different cultures focus (with the plot) on different cultures. Mainstream childrens books are still largely inhabited by white children.

For example, a book about trucks or cars or princesses, for the most part, features mainly white kids.

HamiltonDoula said...

The lack of diversity in general books bugs me, too. Though, in Canada it's slightly less of a problem where part of our national identity is very deliberatly about cultural diversity. I couldn't find any beginner chapter books with non-white protagonists recently when searching for a book to give to my son's non-white schoolmate as a birthday present. I still fret that the family might be bothered that the book I finally chose is so damned white!

The "god" issue always bugs me. The line "god keep our land / glorious and free" appears in our national anthem, which we sing fairly regularly when attending hockey games and I started very loudly singing "Oh keep our land / glorious and free".

Kieran is on the cusp of being a fluent beginner reader, so I don't do much reading anymore; I make him do most of the reading in the name of practice!

flutter said...

the sneaky little ways that politics pervade kid's books and text books piss me off

MadMad said...

Oh, so many pet peeves! How about George "getting to" move to a zoo after being taken from his home in the jungle? That drives me nuts. You know what's a great book for girls, though - the Franny K. Stein series by Jim Benton. Very funny, but with a great message for girls about being yourself and being smart and sciency. So good. Start with the first one - it's one of the best. Lunch Walks Among Us.

heidi said...

THIS book drives me crazy in a million ways:
http://www.amazon.com/What-Shall-Be-Barbie-Carryalong/dp/1575843366/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1244247588&sr=8-2

Mission Street Food said...

Ada loves the berenstain bears, but I find the books boring a preachy.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I feel your pain. From one heathen pagan atheist to another.

alejna said...

As another heathen atheist, I'm glad not to have run into the "loving god" issue in our bedtime reading.

As for other things that drive me batty, the Froggy books probably top my list. They are utter crap, but my daughter loves them. But I have to edit out several bits. Like the one where Froggy behaves so badly at a fancy restaurant that they have leave, but then gets to go out burger joint instead, which is what he wanted in the first place. And then there's the one where he has a new baby sister, and it's full of anti-girl commentary.

Curious George bugs me, too. The Man in the Yellow Hat is the one who ought to be disciplined.

Awesome Mom said...

I found a series of Sesame Street books at the Library's used book store and it was not until I got them home that I noticed they featured Elmo who loves to talk in the third person. I got my sharpie out and rewrote it so that he spoke correctly. I knew that if I tried to do it in my head every time I read I would forget and mess it up plus when other people come over and read (grandparents) they have the version I want read. It is nice to know I am not the only one that is bothered by issues in kid's books.

nonlineargirl said...

um, Mission Street Food is Nora (my sister was logged on my computer)

wheelsonthebus said...

alice the fairy -- someone needs to tell david shannon that "a lot" is 2 words.

clifford the big red dog -- there is a comma splitting a compound predicate.

Woman in a Window said...

OK, Madeline just cracks me up. Wait. NO. You crack me up. Usually that's Madeline's seat but when she's in the hospital they let Alice outta the closet and she gets to eat for a change. Didn't you ever read that edition?

Now, go and pray that someone will send you the special Alice edition. Your happiness depends on it.

(OK, this is officially the last post I'm reading tonight. It's 11:21pm and I'm OBVIOUSLY very tired. Night.)

Kelly said...

I once pasted the image of a nursing baby on top of a picture of a bottle in one of Violet's board books. I've lightened up about it now, but the prevalence of unnecessary bottles in kid's literature bugs me.

I know that bottles are needed and not inherently evil, but the lazy illustrator tends to use them as shorthand. It's like saying, "Hey! There's a baby here." Casual images of nursing mothers are rare.

julochka said...

that loving god thing would get me too..

at our house, we loved and still love (tho' they are board books) sandra boynton. and i occasionally recite chicka chicka boom boom to myself.

but the book that gets me is love you forever by robert munsch. it makes me throw up a little bit in my mouth when i read it.

so i try to avoid that.

Mental P Mama said...

The Giving Tree gets me. Yup, just use up the ol' mother til she's a stump. gah

InTheFastLane said...

Just last night JJ picked out Babar, which I had not read since I was a child. In the first few pages, Babar's mother gets shot and dies and then...Babar meets his young cousin Celeste who he then becomes engaged to on the way back to the "forest". Do elephants live in forests? He married his cousin???

This book is now in my pile of books that might disappear soon.

Gwen said...

I've been reading my daughter the Narnia books before bed. I usually read about 3 pages and she zonks out. I don't even know if she understands it (she's 3) but I like and it puts her to sleep so it's all good. What irritates me about kid's books? The concept of "happily ever after" for one. What a crock of shit. To be honest with you, I don't mind a god reference in a book. I mean, that could be the author's feelings. If the author is Christian or some other religion then it makes sense that he or she would consider a relationship with God as essential to happiness. It's not to say one can't be happy in life without that element, but hardcore Christians certainly believe that's the case. I support their right to express those opinions even if I don't always agree with them, you know? I'm more agnostic. Some people are religious in this world and it's not always a bad thing. I hope I'm not annoying you with this comment because I really do understand why it would be upsetting to an atheist to read something like that. I guess I'm just trying to see it from a religious person's perspective.

mayberry said...

You probably haven't had the pleasure yet, but don't get me started on Magic Tree House. Aside from being littered with sentence fragments, the whole concept just bugs me -- a magical librarian recruits two kids to go on special missions for her (why can't she just do it herself) and then she always has to save their asses anyway (by being present as a mouse or something) and it's just DUMB. The girl is plucky and wears a sweatshirt; the boy is nerdy and cautious and wears glasses; it's just all so annoying.

You may have struck a nerve here.

jen said...

one of the things i miss most here is there are no kids books. none. none in the library and none to buy. we brought M books but you know, they get old right? and what about the other kids? reading for fun isn't a priority here.

but all that said, and sorry for the rant...i don't like rhyming so much and really don't like it when the parents are always a mom and dad, generally white. ok, i am officially terrible.

i am very mary said...

that my princess is too "big" to let me read them to her anymore. sigh.

niobe said...

Not exactly on point, but, as a child, I could not stand having books read to me. I could read them myself much faster. And without the annoying mistakes and hesitations and changing voices that my parents/nanny/babysitters/teachers added. I always felt that when someone was reading a book to me, I was being condescended to, somehow. Yes, I have issues.

Consequently, though I know it's a Good Thing and can be a nice bonding time if both reader and read-to enjoy it, the whole concept of reading books to kids sets my teeth on edge.

A Magical Childhood said...

The Rainbow Fish annoys the enamel off of my teeth. The message that you should give away everything that makes you special so you can all be the same is just creepy, and it seems too much like he has to buy his jealous friends off to get their company. And it's preachy, badly written and... Okay, shutting up. :)

I always hated The Giving Tree too. My mother always tried to pass herself off as a stump type of mother. "Oh, just chop me off bit by bit, I'll be happy just to have you sit on me once in a while."

I pretty much refuse to read any character books (Dora, Barbie, etc.), Berenstain Bears or books based on TV shows or children's movies. There are just too many wonderful books out there to waste time on the crap. :)

The LIbrary Lady said...

Sorry, Anjali, I continue to differ.
Start with Ezra Jack Keats books about Peter and go all the way to Mary Hoffman's books about "Amazing Grace." And Grace Lin's picture books, those by the McKissacks, etc, etc.

They are out there. And there are more and more every year.

As for the truck books, most of the car, truck, etc books consist of little BUT the pictures of the vehicles. And those come in a rainbow of colors :D

"A Magical Childhood", thank you for the last paragraph. You have expressed why I don't buy those sorts of books for the library. Besides, everyone has those at home anyway--I like to have the wonderful books people DON'T buy at the bookstore, yardsale, grocery store, etc.

Clare said...

We received the original Babar and Curious George books for my (now 3 year old) daughter. She loves George, so we occasionally read it, but I hate the messages it sends. And the final page where every zoo animal has a balloon - um, animals choke and die on balloons.....
I have hidden the Babar book, for the same reasons that InTheFastLane wrote - it's just messed up!
I also have a broad and general hatred for books that twist words for the sake of peppy rhymes. And character books like Dora etc., which are often very badly written.

But I grew up on Enid Blyton books, which I'm sure would horrify me if I reread them today!

Lady M said...

I hate the Giving Tree too. My latest irritation is a board book that has mostly counting questions, but a few random ones thrown in - by accident, I think!

http://www.empress-m.com/2009/06/petty-petty-thoughts-on-cardboard.html

Anonymous said...

Wow - it's amazing to me to stumble upon a blog only to find the need to eliminate a part of a book simply because it says "loving God". One of the wonderful things about books is that it open ups ideas that may be different from your own and thus you can have discourse about these similarities and differences and your opinions about the books. I never understand how "freethinking" means eliminating words in a book.