Okay, I know that this seems like a crazy post, but there are books that my kids love that I simply don’t like reading. So much of blogging about books is trying to keep positive and to showcase the books that mean something to us. When there are books that my kids love that I don’t, I read them and try to keep my snide remarks to myself, but it does happen from time to time that there are books that pain me. I know I’m not alone in this, so I’m intrigued to see what books irk other parents.
One book that has long bothered me is The Giving Tree. I know, I know, this is a classic. I loved it as a child. My brother was going to read this at my Grandmother’s funeral. It held a special place in my heart for years. And then I read it as an adult and immediately was disheartened. Then at 2 1/2 J started pulling it off of the shelf and I had to find joy in her saying that the tree grew apples and bananas and trying to squash down the fact that the tree gave up everything to a child/man who didn’t even seem to appreciate it. In the last few weeks, E has started asking me to read this to her again and tells me that it is her favorite (favorite is her new favorite word).
The Giving Tree is a book about a tree that gives everything to a boy that she loves. But it is also about a tree that is a martyr, which is not something that I think we should be teaching our children to be. The tree always provides the boy with what he wants: branches to swing on, shade to sit in, apples to eat, branches to build a home. As the boy grows older he requires more and more of the tree. The tree loves the boy very much and gives him anything he asks for. In the ultimate act of self-sacrifice, the tree lets the boy cut her down so the boy can build a boat in which he can sail away. The boy leaves the tree, now a stump. He returns years later and sits on the stump, once again making the tree happy because she feels useful. The boy never says thank you. The boy never seems to even show the tree love after his early days of swinging in the branches. But the tree always loves the boy.
I know that this is only one book and that we counter-balance it with other books about giving back to others and saying thank you, but this book just bugs me.
Purplicious is another of those books that rubs me the wrong way. The funny thing is that this one seems to bother me more now then it did when J first started reading it. The story seems innocent enough, Pinkalicious loves pink but her friends are starting to prefer black. My problem comes in when all of the other girls start to tease her and gang up on her to the point of Pinkalicious writing in her diary that “pink is a lonely color” and “pink has no purpose.” She then gets the blues, screams at her parents and feels that she is all alone in the world. There is a silver lining at the end of the book when Pinkalicious meets a new girl in art class who paints with a variety of colors and thinks that pink is perfect because it can change blue to purple.
These are some heady topics for a children’s book that my 3 year old loves. These are great topics to discuss with older children who are facing bullying, but by the time they are old enough to have that kind of a discussion, they are no longer interested in the Pinkalicious books, or at least mine isn’t. I know that there are mean girls out there that our daughters are going to come in contact with, but poor little Pinkalicious doesn’t even stand up for herself. She simply gets moody and depressed and ready to give up her beloved pink. That isn’t the lesson we want them to learn. We want our girls to know that even because everyone else doesn’t love pink, or a certain sport, or Harry Potter, etc. that it is okay for them to have their own loves and passions. A little girl that we know loves all things super heroes. That is beyond awesome. She was never into frilly princesses and fairies, but that doesn’t mean that she can’t have a blast playing with my princess loving daughter. We teach our children to celebrate differences, to applaud passions and to like people for who they are, not just because they all like exactly the same thing.
I’m actually pulling from an old rant of mine with this one. I think I borrowed The Rainbow Fish from the library back in 2009 when J was 2 1/2 because I had heard such wonderful things about it and hated it so much that it has not found its way back into our house. Back in the day I was writing a different blog and wrote about it there. My summary at the time with some editorializing, was this: The story is of a beautiful fish, “the most beautiful fish in the ocean,” who is called Rainbow Fish by the other fish. They all wanted to play with him, but he “would just glide past, proud and silent, letting his scales shimmer.” One day, one of the smaller fishes calls out to him and wants him to give away one of his silvery scales. Rainbow Fish not only says no, but is somewhat rude about it (which makes some sense, since he’s basically being asked to hand over an arm). The blue fish feels scorned so he goes back to the other fish and bad mouths Rainbow Fish so that Rainbow Fish is now ostracized by the other fish. Rainbow Fish doesn’t like this treatment. It was okay when he ignored everyone else, but he wants the other fish to pay attention to him – “What good were the dazzling, shimmering scales with no one to admire them?” He is encouraged to talk to the wise octopus for help. The octopus suggests that he gives a glittering scale to each of the other fish so that he will no longer be the most beautiful fish but will discover how to be happy. He balks at the idea, but winds up doing it anyway. Giving away his beautiful scales makes him feel better and now everyone will play with him.
This book makes interesting points about vanity and the need to share with others, but it also seems to say that you should give away what makes you an individual so that everyone can look alike. Honestly, I haven’t read this one since 2009, but it is not one of my favorites.
There are so many absolutely amazing picture books out there. I don’t like to focus on the negative, but E had me read The Giving Tree and Purplicious over and over again last week so it just go me to thinking. I know that the kids see these books differently. Don’t you sometimes wish that you could get into your child’s mind and understand why they like certain things? They have a hard time verbalizing what they like and dislike about something – I obviously don’t have that problem 🙂
I hope this week goes well for everyone. I’m looking forward to getting back to blogging since the snow that we got last week shut everything in our small southern town down for 4 days. We’ve read some really great books recently that I can’t wait to share. Cheers!