The other day I asked Iris what she was doing.
“I’m doing something,” she replied.
“What?” I pressed.
Generally, when one reads a children’s book, one expects to find a weird or clever tale, something perhaps to make your little one think or learn about safe topics like colours and manners. Some times though, one comes across books with very questionable morals. Disregarding rabbit-eating bear stories, there are some that kind of make me go, “I’m not really sure I want Iris to be learning such things.”
One example is Kes Gray and Nick Sharratt’s Eat Your Peas. I absolutely adored Sharratt’s Shark in the Park and Foggy Foggy Forest. The later was particularly clever in teaching about shadows and shapes. However, even though award-winning Eat Your Peas shares the same bright, bold illustrations, it surreptitiously disappeared back to the library after the first reading.
I happily picked it up thinking it would perhaps help Iris to eat those little green balls. Nope, grossly disappointed.
It starts out with Daisy’s mum asking her to eat her peas. “I don’t like peas”, replies Daisy.
The mum then proceeds to offer Daisy more and more stupendous rewards for consuming them and each time she ups the ante, Daisy responds with the exact same negative statement.
Finally, she compromises and says, “I’ll eat my peas if you eat your sprouts.”
And it ends with both of them eating pudding instead.
WHAT?! I hear you exclaim. Seems as if the writers are having a go at us parents. Perhaps if I viewed it as a child’s joke book it would make some sense, but I’m still not letting Iris anywhere near it.
Example #2 is Frederick by Leo Lionni.
Pretty illustrations, simple book involving a sleepy-looking mouse you think.
It’s about a family of field mice who live in a stone wall near a farm. As the farm shuts down for winter and the farmer family go away on holiday, presumably, the mice are busy preparing for winter. All except Frederick.
When asked why he isn’t working, he replies “I gather sun rays for the cold dark winter days,” and colours and words. Riiight.
In the midst of winter, after most of their rations have gone, they remember what Frederick said about collecting sun rays, colours and words. He then proceeds to describe the warmth of the sun and the colours of various things.
When it comes to Frederick’s “store” of words, he recites a poem about the seasons. When the other mice compliment him saying “Why Frederick, you are a poet”, and here is the clincher, he replies “I know it.”
Admittedly, this could be a lesson on imagination, the power of words, how things can exist without them physically being there and surviving hardship. Yet I can’t help being very sceptical of the main message of this book. Though decidedly Western in my values, thinking and lifestyle, my background Asian values of working hard and being humble make me wonder if this book should remain in Iris’s home library.
The moral of this story is to always read through a book first before reading it to your child. Or risk being pointed and laughed at, and told “I’m not eating my peas ANYMORE.”