Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I Might be a Literary Hypocrite

Just a quick post on something that's stewing in my brain. What's really supposed to be happening is me cleaning up the house while Russ has the kids at the playground for a run-em-around-to-get-them-super-exhausted-so-they-go-to-bed-without-a-whimper fun time.  But instead I'm wondering if I'm a hypocritical snob when it comes to literature.

We received this (free) book in the mail today:

by Anna Dewdney, of Llama Llama fame

So while the house was quiet, I thought I'd check it out.  Bleh. It starts like so:  Every little bunny's good.  They mostly do the things they should.  But sometimes feeling sad or mad can make a little bunny... BAD!

It then proceeds to list (and illustrate!!) what bad bunnies do - grab toys, hit and kick, scream and shout, burp and spit, bite, and all manner of toddler atrocities.  I almost tossed the book out right there.  I just can't stand books that so explicitly set forth bad behavior, even if it is to be corrected by the end of the story.  And I really don't need a book to illustrate to my children that some (even my own!) toddlers behave this way. They've seen it in real life and they know how Mom addresses it.

But... I read a little further.  Before transitioning into the behaviors that good little bunnies "should" emulate, the book reads, Nobunny's perfect, that is true - but aren't you glad this isn't YOU?

I froze in my tracks.  Well, actually I was sitting down, cozy on the couch, so I was already stationary, but whatever. This simple phrase called to mind one of the poems the kids memorized last year - one that turned out to be a favorite of all.  

The Goops
Gelett Burgess

The Goops they lick their fingers
And the Goops they lick their knives.
They spill their broth on the table cloth--
Oh! They lead disgusting lives.

The Goops they talk while eating,
And loud and fast they chew;
And that is why
I'm glad that I
Am not a Goop.
Are you?

Kind of similar???  And I started to wonder... am I a literary hypocrite.  Am I disgusted by modern literary bad behavior, but think it's charming when I know it to have been written at the turn of the 20th century?  (For a little more info on Gelett Burgess, here's his Wikipedia blurb.  Did you know he invented the word, blurb????  That kind of claim to fame can't go un-admired!)

This is a very curious problem I have here.  A book and poem similar, and yet not equal.  I'm fairly certain I won't be keeping the bunny book.  For to make matters even a little stickier, author Dewdney noted on her dedication page, "and with gratitude to Beatrix Potter, who knew bad bunny behavior when she saw it."  She's got that right... but Potter's naughty bunnies always got their just desserts.  (or Peter actually had to skip his) And it's always after a rollicking good tale in which children instinctively know that Peter, or Benjamin, or whichever little critter, is up to mischief and is headed for trouble... or a punishment!  This book, unfortunately, not so much in the spirit of Beatrix Potter (Note, another turn of the 20th century author), just depicts naughty bunnies without story or life lesson, and just leaves us with a sticky sweet, No bad bunnies... Good for you!  

I guess it may be a double standard, or a preference for old fashioned things, or just plain old hypocrisy, but I'll take Burgess' table manners wit and Potter's bunny "morality" tales (I know they're not really "morality" tales, but you know what I mean) over our newly acquired bunny book any day.  Call me crazy, cooky, or stuck in the past, but I'm passing on Nobunny's Perfect.  Let me know if you want it - you pay shipping ;)  

Shoot - the van just pulled up in the driveway and I haven't cleaned up anything...  Gotta go!


  1. Good for you, Theresa inspecting "literature" so fully. If only more moms were like you.....just wait till the littles are older and you are reading the tween "literature." It's scary what is considered good reading. Keep up the great work!

    Best regards!
    Lisa P.

    1. Thanks, Lisa! I can't even imagine what it's like previewing reads for four older ones!! Perhaps those that have gone down this trail before us (hint hint!) should start a blog for book reviews!!

  2. I don't think you're a hypocrite. There's something different about the two, though of course, I can't put it into words! I read and listen to the Burgess poem and his choice of words sounds yucky and distasteful, definitely not something to emulate whereas a lot of this modern reading makes the undesirable behavior look fun (even if it's not supposed to) and the consequences are often just a talking-to. Maybe that's part of it?

    1. oooh... good point about the illustrations affecting how it's portrayed - making it appear fun and cartoony. Hadn't thought of that.


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