Grumpy after Christmas

on Wednesday, December 27, 2006

It’s the day after Christmas and I am GRUMPY. Don’t get me wrong, I had a good Christmas which started with a church service in which the young people did a wonderful sketch or skit in which the local Bethlehem newspaper reporters try to get a photo of the birth of Christ. They start off well, talking about the importance and uniqueness of Christ and try to take a photo of the baby Jesus in the manger with Mary and Joseph behind looking at him, the parents – to get the family angle. Then the photographer decides to emphasise that the birth is in a manger by trying to place the cow and the donkey in the picture.

“Well, if you are going to have the cow and donkey, then I insist we include the shepherds and their flocks of sheep.” retorts the reporter and she invites the shepherds to line up for the photograph.

Well, next the three wisemen arrive and they cannot be left out of the picture and if them, why not invite jolly Santa as well. Then if Santa is in the picture, the story would not be complete if there was no Christmas tree, presents, kids having fun or mother’s baking cookies. Let’s not forget to include the business angle too with shop owners and businesses offering discounts and holiday offers.

And so on and so forth, until there is a huge crowd of characters all trying to crowd into the picture. The photographer tries to frame the picture and asks the reporter for advice. They both agree the picture is too cluttered and decide to remove the baby and the manger so that everyone else can move closer together and be included in the picture. So finally, reporter and photographer have an article about how everyone else had been involved in Christmas without the inconvenience of having to cover a story about a tiny baby and what he became.

Okay back to being GRUMPY!. I also had a wonderful Briayni Rice dinner with close friends, drank merry measures of Australian and French wines, and perhaps slept a little too late. So perhaps the late night led partially to a grumpy morning since over here it is not a holiday and I had to work.

But the number one reason that I am GRUMPY is because of children’s books. My host for Christmas dinner, has a cute little three year old minx named, Emma. Emma loves parties and had a great time greeting guests at the door, relieving them of Christmas presents and placing the presents under the Christmas tree. Unusual for a child her age, she had no great urge to rip open the presents, preferring to decorate the tree with them.

Nevertheless, when I dropped by early this morning before I went to work, she had unwrapped several books. I, of course, obliged when she asked me to read a short children’s book to her. I read the book aloud with gusto, giving different voices to the different weird characters in the tale. However, long before I reached the end of the story I was dismayed.

The story was about a starving anteater who meets characters like the umbrella eater and the sticky tape sucker and the walking stick licker and the encyclopedia chomper. He asks each of them in turn if they have any ants as he is starving but they either don’t care or don’t bother to understand his needs and the anteater has misadventures trying to eat umbrellas, suck sticky tapes, lick walking sticks and chomp encyclopedias. At last he meets one creature who takes him home and there in his home was an ants nest and the anteater gratefully feasted on the ants until he was no longer starving but was full and plump. At this point, he thanks his benefactor and asks how is it there is an ants nest in his house. The benefactor then reveals that he has the ants nest as he is an anteater eater and proceeds to eat our anteater.

Why? Why would someone write a story like that for children? It does not teach compassion for the starving anteater but it teaches fear of strangers and not to trust anyone’s benevolence. The child is invited to laugh at the anteater’s misfortunes, ridicule and ultimately his death.

I brought it to the attention of Emma’s mother who informed me that she had already banned another book earlier that morning. In this other book, the hero of the story refers to the other characters as Stupid. Why would we want our children to learn to call other children “hey Stupid.” Why would anyone write this for children?

I never believed that we had to ban books or watch what our children read until now. Watching out for trash in children’s literature? Well, sign me up.

Now that’s why I am GRUMPY one day after Christmas.

Meet Grumpy, the Children's Literature Watchdog


...Kat said...

Adults who write for children but who have obviously lost along the way a child's heart themselves.....these are such that write such a travesty as that anteater's book. I am dismayed!

What a warped psychology such is. I know little of the study of child development....
the rearing of children is in many cases a misguided wrong-headed logic.... as in: not answering a child's cries will foster an independent and self-reliant spirit. No no no! All that such would instruct is that the world is malevolent unfeeling unresponsive and I am powerless within it. A parent who responds to a child's cries informs rather
the more empowering cause and effect for the child and the confidence to act and achieve.

It is not the "violence" at the heart of that story...children's fairy tales and stories are filled with such.... it is the treachery that is disgusting.

Dave said...

Unfortunately,nothing surprises me anymore ... I don't believe in censorship but I do believe in protecting our children ... Sorry you had to read that to an innocent mind.

Canada said...

Ooooh, bad book. Make that books. I can't stand it when books for kids have words like stupid in them, uless it's telling the kids how unacceptable it is to call anyone by that (or any other name-calling).

Give me Robert Munsch or Dr Seuss any day!!

Ellie said...

Lots of questions to think about...who would write such a book? what about the publisher? and what is the agenda behind such a book?

I do like Grumpy the watchdog...he/she is so cute!


Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Dear kat, dave, canada & ellie,
Thank you for your comments. I realise there will always be some individuals who will write something outside the acceptable norms for children but I expected the editors and the publishers to be responsible enough to weed them out. Well, I will be vigilant about children's books from now on. I agree with kat that we should be empowering children and not burdening them with our phobias and neurosis.

Derf Snilloc said...

Crappy inappropriate children’s books and rhymes have a long history and I’m afraid they will probably have a long future. Mother Goose’s Ring-a-round a rosie rhyme is about the Great Plague, the Big Bad Wolf eating Little Red Ridding Hood’s Grandma?, and let’s not even mention Rock-a-bye baby, in the tree top – heck I’m still afraid of heights. But teaching kids to call others Stupid takes the award of being the worst.

Glad you had a good Christmas and I’d also like to wish you and your family and friends a belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I’m also one that doesn’t post many comments but I read your blog regularly too and have links to your blog on my 4 blogs.

Hope your feeling a little less grumpy – Freddie jr.

Josie said...

You know, it's not just children's books that have lost their innocence, but children's clothes and music as well. I felt depressed when I was shopping for the munchkins. When I was seven years old I was still playing with dolls. Now seven year-old girls are playing with makeup and listening to Hillary Duff and Mandy Moore. That's for teenagers as far as I'm concerned, not for seven year-old girls. Children need to stay innocent for as long as they can.


Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Dear Fred,
Thanks for leaving one of your rare comments. I've only just discovered your other sites other than Timbits. Will visit soon. I wish you God's rich blessings for the season and the new year too.

Trust you gave a good answer with a historical perspective. I suppose ring around a rosie was a kind of cautionary rhyme i.e. don't get sick! Red Riding Hood ends well with the woodsman somehow cutting the wolf and rescuing the grandma. Violent, yes; but all's well that end's well. Now rock-a -bye-baby - still gives me the creeps and I am scared of heights too.

I guess we all survive our childhoods somehow.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I am completely ignorant about 7 year old girl's music and fashion. So far, I am freaking out on children's books. Do I have to worry about music and fashion too? My God-daughter is 6. Do I have to increase Grumpy the watchdog's job specs?

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Then again folks, my god-daughter's mom, used to think I was a bad influence for letting her hold "unclean" tadpoles in her hands. (kat, can you imagine?).

Bringing up children is a very personal matter I guess.

adeline said...

HIya... Uncle Leong... books are's not as bad the tv/mtv the children watch. Parents watching with them too. I mean look at what Harry Potter represents. Don't like your parent/guardian, just say a spell and they will would have to suffer.Thank goodness there are still parents who explain to the children why some things are not good for them. If children are not told or explain, they will do it behind your back. Btw it's Briyani Rice kind of yummy but fattening?

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Hi Adeline,
Thanks for visit and for correction. I really should have checked on spelling but perhaps at that time I was ......too grumpy?

adelym said... least it was only for a day. If not Hoong-hoong would have to kick you out of your room for being grumpy :)
If ever you get to travel to Mynamar/Burma, try and find briyani rice there. They are superb and less oily than the ones in Malaysia. I had it on my 24th birthday when I was there for a mission trip.

Anonymous said...

Hi - a children's librarian chiming in here - just as in the world of adult literature, there are fantastic children's books, mediocre children's books, and truly dreadful children's books. But mind you, there are still a good many wonderful ones - so before deciding that all children's books are awful - get to a library and let a children's librarian help you find the good ones!

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