Crude humor, bad habits not appropriate for children’s literature
December 29, 2006
Over the last several years, I’ve seen a growing trend in some children’s literature that I find very disturbing. What’s even more alarming is that many of the books I object to make their way to the best-seller list. Let me give you a couple of quick examples.
“The Gossip Girls” series, marketed to girls age 14 and older. These books contain sex, booze, pot (among other things), and an overriding theme that if you don’t have endless amounts of money, you’re a total loser. Some of these themes can also be found in some other books that are marketed to children as young as 12.
For younger children, “Captain Underpants” books are loaded with crass “humor” about giving underwear wedgies to unsuspecting victims and disrespecting adults, such as cafeteria workers and the principal of the school. “Walter the Farting Dog” series obviously promotes the message that farting is funny, but there are other disturbing messages. In “Walter the Farting Dog and the Yard Sale,” Dad gets rid of Walter behind his children’s back. Then Walter’s new owner takes Walter to his second-floor apartment where, in an illustration, we see this twisted character naked from the waist-up doing something to Walter’s rear-end. While it turns out he is collecting Walter’s gas to fill balloons that will enable him to rob a bank, I find this imagery very, very wrong.
I suppose from the publisher’s perspective it all boils down to making money. I’m not able to stop these books from being published, but over the 19 years I’ve been writing this column and in every future column, you’ll never find that kind of garbage in any book I recommend. And that’s my promise to you and to children everywhere.
Books to Borrow
The following book is available at many public libraries.
Recommended Stories For You
“Max Cleans Up” written and illustrated by Rosemary Wells, Viking, 32 pages
Read aloud: age 1-3.
Read yourself: age 6-7.
The feisty and loveable bunny, Max, is up to his shenanigans again! His no-nonsense sister, Ruby, wants Max’s room to be cleaned up; it is a terrible mess. She encourages Max to help, but his idea of helping isn’t exactly what Ruby has in mind!
Another winner in Rosemary Wells’ long line of “Max” books, this selection is sure to elicit lots of smiles and giggles from young children everywhere.
Library: Carson City Library, 900 North Roop St.,
Library Director: Sally Edwards
Youth Services Librarian: Susie King
Choices this week: “In the Tall, Tall Grass” by Denise Fleming; “The Stranger Next Door” by Peg Kehret; “Bridge to Terabithia” by Katherine Patterson
Books to Buy
The following books are available at favorite bookstores.
“The Opposite” by Tom MacRae; illustrated by Elena Odriozola, Peachtree, 2006, 28 pages, $15.95 hardcover
Read aloud: age 6-7 and older.
Read yourself: age 7-8.
One day when Nate woke up, an Opposite was on his ceiling. From that moment on, all the things Nate could normally do well, the opposite happened. If he made a statement, the opposite happened. Things were getting out of control, then suddenly Nate had a very clever idea on how he could fix the problem and get rid of the Opposite once and for all!
An ingenious little book that will make readers think, this selection is loaded with fun.
“Matilda’s Humdinger” by Lynn Downey, illustrated by Tim Bowers, Alfred A. Knopf, 2006, 40 pages, $15.95 hardcover
Read aloud: age 5 and older.
Read yourself: age 8-9.
Matilda is a waitress at Burt’s Diner, and all the customers love her. While Matilda isn’t a good waitress, her wild stories keep all the patrons glued to their seats, and when she’s finished, they ask her for more. But the day U.S. Government Health Inspector, Mr. Ralph Q. Yuckley comes into the diner, things look shaky for everyone. He says the diner is in violation of over thirty health codes, including Matilda’s storytelling because the diner doesn’t have an entertainment license. The Inspector gives them two weeks to correct everything or he’ll shut them down.
Matilda quickly changes her act, but everyone misses the old Matilda. And when the Inspector returns, he’s in for a bigger surprise than he every imagined. Brimming with knee-slapping humor, this tale also carries an important message that it’s always best just to be yourself.
• Nationally syndicated, Kendal Rautzhan writes and lectures on children’s literature. She can be reached via e-mail: email@example.com.