Monday, October 26, 2009

Is this kids' book sending the wrong message?

When my son was still a newborn blob of tiny bones wrapped in a blanket of warm skin, my husband rushed out and bought a Curious George book. We had decorated our son’s room in monkeys (which was cuter than it sounds) and my husband’s idea was to take pages from that book, frame them and hang them around our son’s room. This was during what I call the “nonproductive years,” because we had great ideas but were either too physically worn out to do them or could not seem to find the time between formula bottle shakings and projectile vomit cleanups.

curious george bokWe did get as far as to read the book and initial pages with pictures we most wanted to mount. Sure, I knew about Curious George as a kid. Somehow, I didn’t realize how terrible the story was.

Now, I don’t mean to sound extreme. Lord knows my views are extreme enough for this small town I call home. And my husband says some of my liberal views are a bit over the top even for those in the distant state from which I was born, the land of fruit and nuts. But still, as much as I love animals, I’m not giving up red meat, which I think evens me out a bit, right? But have you read Curious George lately? I’m talking about this one, the one I presume is one of the first, which tells the story of how The Man in the Yellow Hat meets George. It goes like this: Yellow hat man is in the jungle and sees George and says, “What a nice little monkey.” He throws down his hat and when George comes down off his nice tree in the jungle he calls home where, presumably, his mother and father monkey parents live and have raised him, yellow hat man grabs George and throws him in a bag. He then whisks George on to a ship and they sail to the big city and George wreaks havoc on the town because he is curious. I’m thinking The Man in the Yellow Hat gets everything he deserves for snatching George out of his happy jungle home and moving him across the pond to a”better place.”

Because I don’t believe in banning books, and the PBS show is cute and entertains my son, I am willing to oblige when my boy pulls that book from his bookshelf and asks me to read it. But I do point out as we read that although George seems happy with yellow hat man now, it sure isn’t nice to snatch animals – or people – up from where they happily live just because you want to play with them.

I also point out that even though George smokes a cigar to relax in that book, my son might not want to light up one himself. My, how stories have changed over the years …

What do you think? Do you have a problem with the origin of that cute little monkey story, or am I just being a bit too extreme?

Photo, my Curious George book

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