Friday, January 13, 2006

Reading for Young Sheep

I've just spotted what could be a nice addition to the bookstore for baby Nazis; I know, I know, good intentions and all that but please:



It's not the little straight-armed sideways heil on the cover that bugs me so much; it's the text inside: "We follow the rules. We line up. We follow the rules. We sit down. We follow the rules. We walk. We follow the rules. We raise our hands. We follow the rules. . . . ." Readers who enjoyed My Pet Goat might be the audience for this one, I'm just sayin'.

I'm reminded of a story Maurice Sendak told me about a time, years ago, when he and Else Minarik (the author of the Little Bear books) were doing a school visit together. Minarik was reading Sendak's Pierre aloud to an auditorium of kids, and, as kids will, they were all soon lustily shouting along with each "I don't care!" As Maurice told it, she came offstage afterwards and said "Jesus Christ, it sounded like the Bund."

9 comments:

rindambyers said...

I've been in schools, visiting, and what was most troublesome to me in most of them is that I felt far too many of teachers were spending more time focusing on making the children obey rules rather than TEACHING them the things the children need--and deserve--to know.

I simply cannot conceive of a childhood spent in schools with rules like this, homeschooled as I was. I had clear boundaries and limits as a child, which were enforced, but when learning things, I never had to walk in lines; I never had to raise my hand; I never had to sit nicely in a chair at a desk for most of the day. I learned my multiplication tables in a bedroom alone with a big window with no glass in it, sprawled on the big, soft bed. I practiced reading to read in a tree or under the bushes outside. And I only "went to school" for half a day; the entire afternoon was always spent in games outside with most of the neighborhood children in our big yard.

And we wonder why children don't read and why children don't succeed in school....

Rand said...

I opened the linked site. My god my blood ran cold. scary that blueberry sal is being used to support white supremacy. my whole childhood just flinched.

Fran Hodgkins said...

Oh my. I checked this site to make sure none of my books were on it, and alerted a friend at Houghton, Nancy Shaw's publisher.

Had my books been listed, I would have contacted the site and demanded that they be removed. No book sale is worth this toxic association!

I feel ill that Robert McCloskey's books (including Make Way for Ducklings is listed here.

Fran Hodgkins said...

Look at that, I'm so rattled that I've lost the power of grammar....

Roger Sutton said...

I'm not so sure what an author or publisher could do about removing their books from a bookstore, online or otherwise. And the implication that the books are being bought by the wrong people, and/or read for the wrong reasons leads in a direction I don't think I'd want to go! A very interesting conundrum, though.

Fran Hodgkins said...

I see what you mean. I think what bothered me the most was looking at the "messages" the descriptions attached to the books. Nancy Shaw's delightful Sheep out to Eat was burdened with the message "Stick with your own kind."

Once our books are out there, there's nothing we as authors and editors can do about how people interpret them, or use them for ends we had never intended.

It certainly is food for thought!

Jane said...

A few years ago a book of mine (TAM LIN) was on one of those sites. It's quite a feminist fairy tale based on the only really female hero friendly Scots Border Ballad.

A "helpful" friend wrote to them commending them young woman, and by the way he was pleased also to see they liked the author so well, did they know know she was Jewish?

Predictably, they replied, "It's an awful book and another Jew ripping off good Aryan stories." And took the book off their website.

Sigh.

Like Roger, I am conflicted when good books sneak on to those toxic lists What if they. . .worked their magic and brought some light to the unenlightened child reader? Little time bombs that go off and wean them away from their toxic adults?

--Jane

Roger Sutton said...

And let's not forget that such "repurposing" of books isn't limited to crazy Nazis. K.T. Horning wrote what was to me a remarkably persuasive essay in Horn Book on Harriet the Spy as a role model for young lesbians. Yes, we got letters and comments from people upset with Horning's "politicizing" the book. Frog and Toad have been similarly gay-coded. If someone wants to make a list of gay-friendly books, I'm all for it, and he or she doesn't need to ask permission from the authors. Neither do the Nazis. I'm with Jane--we can only hope that some little white power girl reads _The Bungalow Mystery_ and sees herself in boyish cousin George!

shewhousuallydoesn'tdothistypeofthing said...

I am not a Nazi, merde alors, far from it, I HOPE, but censorship is censorship. I would hope we would all dessiminate information and never deny it. And anyone who has ever read a year's worth of reviews from all corners about one's book knows that a lot of people are coming at it from a lot of different places and what they are reading into it that the author didn't intend is legion. But so what, the author does not want to be a little Nazi herself about these things.