September 11, 2012

"Bad Little Children's Books."

"Dead Whales Can't Wave Back," etc.

Via Metafilter, where somebody says:
Maybe I'm overly sentimental when it comes to children's book artists, but this joke actually kind of upsets me. Eloise Wilkin, f'rinstance? A very talented lady. Her books were beautiful, other worldly, just a touch kitsch and weird but also very tender and real, able to perfectly capture both the emotions of an age (namely 3 or 4) and the era in which she was working. Try as I might, I just can never get behind such cynicism inserted into such otherwise earnest work.
Take a side. The lines, they are drawn...

26 comments:

sydney said...

The joke books upset me, too. I think it's because I had a lot of those books when I was a child. But instead of getting all warm and fuzzy with nostalgia while looking at them, I got creeped out.

Peter said...

So funny!

rhhardin said...

Dick and Jane updated to adult life is somewhere, details of divorces and drug addictions.

Chip Ahoy said...

The first day of kindergarden was momentous. I saw the building before, saw the monitors at the crosswalk and thought, "my how important everything is." And then before I knew it I was standing at the doorway holding Mum's hand and the door to classroom swung open and I beheld a room full of wooden easels with children dressed in their father's t-shirts making dripping messes before them. They were all making a circus scene and the pages would be put together to form a gigantic scene all around the room but in that moment I was concerned with getting my hands on a brush and demonstrating their problem is they're loading their brushes with too much paint. Dripping. Everyone was dripping all over the place. Why didn't they see their problem and correct it? Dummkopfs, couldn't they see they were using too much paint? I HAD to show I could do that without dripping, I HAD to try it, and I HAD to share what I kew with the world, and Mum simply disappeared. I don't know what happened to her. She just vanished. Oh well, I had somebody else's daddy's t-shirt on, a big ass paint brush in my hand, my very own easel and all was well. And after several drips I was right about the paint overloading problem. I also learned how to draw tent flaps open so they match when they're closed, I was imagining having never actually been in such a tent.

That's what I think about children's books.

They should pop-up. Maybe Daddy has AIDS might a little too strong for 3 or 4 year old, but kids are generally fairly tough. The Eloise Wilkin link has Hansel and Gretel, and that's a weird unkind story, still does bug me.

Lem said...

Fido finds a Dildo.

lol.

Chip Ahoy said...

Perverse children's book covers is a favorite running theme on b3ta. They dig up sources I never heard of, take something tender and innocent and make it horrible.

Revenant said...

I feel much the same way as the commenter. This attempt at humor just sort of depressed me.

edutcher said...

These are for adults.

Adults who don't "offend" easily, if at all.

Scott M said...

There is a wonderful little children's book Mommies Are For Counting Stars by Harriet Ziefert and illustrated by Cynthia Jabar. Wonderful until you get their other book in the same vein, Daddies Are For Catching Fireflies.

First of all...gender stereotyping?

Second, and most importantly, smack dab in the middle of the daddy book is a picture of a kid and a dad fixing a bicycle and the caption says something along the lines of "Daddies are for fixing things." You turn the page, though, and the bike is still broken, the dad looks befuddled, and the kid looks disappointed. The captain reads something like "But sometimes daddies can't fix things."

There is no similar pair of pages in the mommy book showing the woman burning dinner or making a dress too small, etc, etc.

Years ago, when my feminist sister-in-law sent us these treasures, I emailed the publisher. Her response was "Well, maybe Harriet feels like its time women are recognized." ...at the cost of the men, apparently.

Completely unnecessary and horrible, bad little children's book.

EMD said...

Edward Gorey FTW!

William said...

The first few covers are funny, but it's all a variation of the same joke: Juxtapose something horrible in a sunlit world with beaming children. For a change of pace, they should do a few Harlequin Romance covers featuring Naomi Wolf's vagina.

AllieOop said...

Maginal Wright Enright Barney, sister of Fank Lloyd Wright and former resident of Madison WI, is my favorite children's book author and illustrator. There were many children's books from her era that were far from politically and socially correct.

Little Black Sambo comes to mind.

I collect vintage children's books, Enright Barney's daughter, Elizabeth Enright, also achieved fame as children's book author and illustrator. Lots of talent in that family. On Wisconsin!

EMD said...

Of all the ways to express your artistic prowess ...

AaronS said...

There's enough mockery in the world. To add more is bad form.

Create something new. Don't befoul someone else's work. This reminds me of a story about a little old lady in Italy I once heard.

Synova said...

Maybe they'd be funnier if unemployment wasn't permanently stuck at over 8%.

I'm not just being snarky, either. The social context makes a difference in how those cherubic children are viewed. If times are grand they look sort of bland and boring. Boring happy children, scrubbed and shiny in a 1950's prosperity sort of way.

Seeing them mocked, now, seems like rubbing salt and lemon juice in a wound. Hey, did you notice that life sucks?

Carnifex said...

"That's gold, Jerry! GOLD!!"

Synova said...

On the other hand... this is funny.

AllieOop said...

Synova, I got that for my daughter, the one with the three kids. Of course she won't read it to them before bed, she's my one conservative kid, now when my liberal daughter has children.....;)

Synova said...

Unfortunately I've found it necessary to start enforcing bed time again. It's even worse when they're 15 than when they were 5.

AllieOop said...

Teenagers, ugh. My oldest is 40 and my youngest is 27.

They now tell me when to go to bed.

wyo sis said...

As a children's librarian I find the parody covers disgusting. I wish childhood could remain a time of innocence. When things get to be funny they often aren't taken seriously anymore. We should take the innocence of children very seriously.

AllieOop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AllieOop said...

I agree Wyo Sis. I have many of Eloise Wilkens Little Golden Books, even some of the very early ones. Her books depicted sweet family interactions. My three year old granddaughter loves " Where Has Baby Gone?"

Truckee Man said...

Modern children's books are far worse than the ones I read as a kid. There is far more tragedy suffering and PC now.

Rusty said...

I thought it was funny as hell.

My mother used to read this to us, "Quack! Said Jerusha" I must have been very small because I didn't remember the illustrations. I have been looking for a copy for a number of years and finally found one for $150.00. it was published in the 1930s and it is interesting in that it depicts black children and white children playing together.

Palladian said...

The Book of Accidents. Designed for Young Children.

Truth is better than fiction.