Saturday, March 18, 2017

Someone Got Really Judgmental This Week And Took Action. Not Me. My Friend. And Now She Needs Some Advice.

I need some advice.

For a friend.

Let's call her, I don't know, uuuhhhhh....Mary-yeah, good name. Anyway, my friend, Mary, has, like, a huge pet peeve, which, she didn't even know was that big of a pet peeve until she started working at, a kind of library. Not a real library. Like an extra library, only for kids. Anyway, this friend, so I'm told, was sitting there at the library thing, checking out books, as one does at libraries, right? Anyway, as she's helping kids find books to read and reshelving returns and all that, she keeps seeing these kinds of, well, these certain kinds of books...on the shelves. Books that my friend doesn't think are really appropriate for children, or really any people, no matter what walk of life, to be reading. So, one day, after volunteering (note: out of the generosity of her heart) every week for, like, three years, my friend finally cracks and removes the books from the shelves. And marks them as damaged in the computer system. And puts them in her backpack. And takes them home. And hides them under her bed. So the children don't find them. Because it horrifies her, to the depth of her soul toes*, to imagine her family reading them. Because, dudes. They. Are. That. Bad.

I'm not kidding.



Maybe you missed it. Let's lean in for a closer look, shall we?

Right. Right there. You see it? Based, which is just another word for abridged. Slashed. Mutilated. Dumbed-down. Snipped like an eight week old kitten**.

I mean, guys? The book ended with this sentence:

They ate and drank and talked and laughed. The day ended with Beth playing carols and everyone singing.



Now, maybe you're all like, eh, never liked Little Women anyway, all sweet and way too quaint and what not. Who cares!?

But, I'm sorry.

First off, you have crazy coming out of every orifice of your body, and I'm not sure we can still be friends.

Second, it was not the only "book" on the shelves.

Robinson Crusoe, widely regarded as one of the greatest novels of all time, had it's description of cannibalism changed from this:

When I came to the place my very blood ran chill in my veins, and my heart sunk within me, at the horror of the spectacle; indeed, it was a dreadful sight, at least it was so to me, though Friday made nothing of it.  The place was covered with human bones, the ground dyed with their blood, and great pieces of flesh left here and there, half-eaten, mangled, and scorched; and, in short, all the tokens of the triumphant feast they had been making there, after a victory over their enemies.  I saw three skulls, five hands, and the bones of three or four legs and feet, and abundance of other parts of the bodies; and Friday, by his signs, made me understand that they brought over four prisoners to feast upon; (...)  I found Friday had still a hankering stomach after some of the flesh, and was still a cannibal in his nature; but I showed so much abhorrence at the very thoughts of it, and at the least appearance of it, that he durst not discover it: for I had, by some means, let him know that I would kill him if he offered it.

To this:
When we came to the place in the sand where we left the two cannibals, he showed me that he wanted to uncover and eat them. I let him know that this was very wrong.

Tell me, Scholastic Junior Classics, exactly where did the chunks of flesh, the blood soaked ground and mangled bodies go? Huh? I mean, if my kid isn't ready to read a semi-biographical detailed description of a cannibalistic feast written in 1719, then, maybe they should just stick to something gentler, like The Wind in the Willows.

Oh, waaaaiiit. No. Sorry, gosh, never mind, you ruined that one too.

Didn't you?

Goodness, how can we expect the children of today to understand these stories if we don't chop out 80% of the words and then define the last 101 at the bottom of the page?

I mean, what was Anna Sewell even thinking writing all those words? This one is soooo much easier.

And under 60 pages too! (eye roll) Score.

So, I guess, what I'm asking, hypothetically, for a friend, named Mary, is this: Is what Mary did really considered stealing?

Now, before you don your judgmental righteous hat (you know, the red one***), and give an answer, hear Mary out. Because, the other day, we were drinking coffee together and we discussed the moral ramifications of her actions, and Mary likened it more to, oh, what did she say, eradicating invasive plants from National Parks? No. Recycling? Noooo that wasn't it either. Oh, yeah! She said what she did was more like adopting one of those tiny traffic circles in her neighborhood, disposing of the used heroin syringes and planting wildflowers. To save the honeybees. And by extension, mankind itself.

So, maybe my real hypothetical question, for a friend, named Mary is this: Is literature something that needs to be saved, like the honeybee? Do we have a moral right to protect the "intellectual and emotional development" of current and future generations? And, can it be achieved through gorilla type tactics?

If we have replaced all 16 removed "books" with the real thing****.

Using our own money.

Because, let's face it, Mary would do anything for these honeybees:

And by extension, yours too.

*Yes, souls have toes, and you can't prove otherwise.

**Because you should spay and neuter your pets, not your classic literature.

***This isn't the hat you thought it would be, is it?

You judgmental person, you.

****Complete list of removed (aka damaged) "books". Judge away:

  1. "Black Beauty" "by" Anna Sewell (2 books)
  2. "The Wind in the Willows" "by" Kenneth Grahame
  3. "Anne of Green Gables" "by" L.M. Montgomery
  4. "Bleak House" "by" Charles Dickens
  5. "A Little House Chapter Book: Laura #1 The Adventures of Laura & Jack" "by" Laura Ingalls Wilder
  6. "The Wizard of Oz" "by" L. Frank Baum
  7. "Alice in Wonderland" "by" Lewis Carroll
  8. "Pride and Prejudice" "by" Jane Austen
  9. "Robinson Crusoe" "by" Daniel Defoe
  10. "White Fang" "by" Jack London
  11. "Martin Chuzzlewit" "by" Charles Dickens
  12. "The Mutiny on Board HMS Bounty" "by" William Bligh
  13. "Little Women" "by" Louisa May Alcott
  14. "Heidi" "by" Johanna Spyri
  15. "The Secret Garden" "by" Frances Hodgson Burnett

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Whenever I say Grrrrl I Pretend To Be Daniel Tiger From Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. In My Head. (I've never been cool.)

Recently a friend sent me this video:

And I was all, "Dude, man! It's like Herstory but with more pictures? I'm totally in! Who wants my money!?" (Note: this website does)

But, after the "I bought a new book euphoria*" began to subside, I got to thinking more about the video. Specifically, what books were on the shelves in the video? Time posted their list of 100 best children's books of all time here, and I'm assuming those are the books the video is stocked with. Now, truthfully, there are some really really good books on Time's list! Books I own! (51 out of 100, specifically) Books I've read to my children! (72 out of 100) But, if we look at the idea behind the video, which is the lack of strong female characters in children's literature-they might have a point. Which, really wasn't a problem in the years before Katie could read, as I routinely changed character's genders to suit my agenda. *gasp* But, come on, I mean, who can tell if the little kid from Blueberries for Sal is a boy or a girl, or the kid following the farm animals in Just Me. Or the sheep from Sheep in a Jeep. They're sheep, let's face it, they could go either way! And it worked beautifully. Girls loved trucks! Girls loved trains! Any personificated inanimate object immediately became female. I felt like a genius!

Until Ellie was born.

Ellie was having none of that. Because, "Mommy, girls have long hair, and wear dresses." And my retort of, "Mommy doesn't wear dresses all the time and Grandma has short hair." didn't go far because, "Not in books. In books, Mommy, all girls should have long hair and wear dresses." And, so, you know, that's the fun story of the time my two year old called my bluff as I tried to pass boys off as girls during story time. (Thank goodness I won the argument about the WOMAN farmer from the Fisher Price farm set! Probably. Or. She's just been letting me live with that lie for the last few years. Awwww maaaaan....She has, hasn't she? Shoooot.)

So, back I went, to allowing the book characters to gender identify as the author originally intended, while scouring the library for books with girls as the main characters. Girls who didn't make me want to swack them over the head as they sat there, in their tower, waiting, when, let's face it, they could have cut their own hair off, tied to to the bedpost and climbed down it themselves, as Mythbusters has proven you can. Those. Those books were harder to find. The video was spot on about that.

Reading about characters who look like you is powerful. And, while Katie was willing to see herself as a train loving, cookie eating mouse who rode in a jeep with some crazy female sheep, Ellie, she saw herself as a princess. With long hair. And a pretty dress. And those girls need strong characters too.

I'm sure she's not the only one.

What are your favorite female characters in children's lit?

*With jazz hands.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

I Can't Just Slap This Post On The Internet Like A Bumper Sticker Full Of Ill-Conceived Grammatical Errors. It Needs Content. Or Maybe Just A Punch Line With Myself Firmly Attached To The Butt Of It.

This is not a real post, but if I push the publish button, then, I'll feel like I've accomplished something, because apparently cleaning the kitchen, doing 7 loads of laundry, volunteering at two elementary schools, and standing in the cold with my kids selling Girl Scout cookies isn't doing it for me this week. Plus writing is hard. And I ran out of coffee. And then it was time to pick the kids up from school.

(Note: Insert more creative excuse here. Maybe one including a chinchilla, a turtle and a big bowl of chili. Note on the note: Adopt a chinchilla and a turtle and convince the kids they actually like chili to add believability to the excuse. Note on the note on the note: This is turning out to be harder than the actual writing work. Plus, let's face it, I'm never going to convince the children they like chili. I'm gonna have to fake that.)

I ran a 15k on Sunday, and, at the 10k point my kids and Jon were standing on the sidelines, ready to cheer me on! Ellie even ran out onto the course to give me a high five! So cute! And then? I had this conversation with a fellow runner:

Me: (high fiving Ellie after veering to the curb so she isn't bowled over by 4,000 runners)
Guy in Shorts: (from really close behind me) Hey! You stole my high five!
Me: (with my sweaty incredulous face) Uh, no. I made that girl. She totally owes me.
Guy in Shorts: But I need it more than you!
Me: (22 minutes later, looking over my shoulder, as I kick through the finish chute) Yeah, ya' did.

What really happened:

Me: (high fiving Ellie after veering to the curb so she isn't bowled over by 4,000 runners)
Guy in Shorts: (from really close behind me) Hey! You stole my high five!
Me: (with my sweaty incredulous face) Uh, no. (gesture awkwardly toward uterus) I made that girl. She totally owes me.
Guy in Shorts: But I need it more than you!
Me: (30 minutes later, looking way ahead of me as Guy in Shorts is downing a bottle of water with his race medal around his neck I gasp through the finish chute)'re such a liar!