The Subversive Book

Last night, I found a dangerous book lurking in the boy’s bedroom. It’s easy for a book to lurk in his room. He has four shelves of books. Plus, he squirrels books away in his bunk bed. And stacks them on the floor. Except for trucks, the boy probably has more books than anything else in his room. And costumes—he lives in New Orleans so at three years old, he already has an awesome collection of costumes.

THE BOY AS KUDZU
THE BOY AS KUDZU

The boy’s books aren’t for show. We read them. We’ve read a lot of books. Recently, we’ve been into Dr. Seuss, which I didn’t read as a child (I know-heresy). Dr. Seuss, it turns out, is quite moralistic. NOTE: SPOILER ALERT—DO NOT READ IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW THE ENDING!!!! “Don’t hurt the trees” (Lorax); “Christmas is more than gifts” (The Grinch); and, “A promise is a promise” (Horton Hatches an Egg).

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for morals. My stories always contain a “point.” But it seems a bit unfair for little kids to think they’re reading something fun or even funny and—ha! It’s all about the moral.

Given this, you can imagine my surprise when the boy dragged out Around the World with Mouk by Marc Boutavant.

AROUND THE WORLD WITH MOUK
AROUND THE WORLD WITH MOUK

This book is amazing. It has a hedgehog stealing a cupcake. A meteorite flattening a snake. And content (i.e., the words) talking about stars when THE ILLUSTRATION SHOWS NO STARS!

Downright subversive, I’m telling you.

I read the comments on Amazon, which were peppered with parents insisting the book was too detailed and not engaging for younger children. Depends on the younger child, I guess. The boy was riveted. We “read” the book for about 20 minutes and only covered 6 pages. Each dialogue bubble triggers so much conversation, such as the owl that wants to eat the lemmings (“Why does the owl want to eat the lemmings?”—this book doesn’t let the adult off the hook.) Or the illustration of the octopus hanging on the clothesline—”Why is the octopus hanging on the clothesline?” I have no idea. Or they’re laugh out loud funny, like the compliment, “What a lovely fur” followed by the reply: “It’s a caterpillar.”

Most of the Amazon customers who liked the book valued its teaching of diverse cultures and foreign words. Not me. Here’s the review I would write:

If you want your child to know the wonderfulness of our absurd world, buy this book. If you’d rather your child have neat answers and logical progression and spoon-fed understandings of the world, STAY FAR, FAR AWAY FROM THIS BOOK!

here’s to creative synthesis . . .

absurd children's books, Around the World with Mouk, best children's books, children's book review, Dr. Seuss and morals, Marc Boutavant, morals in children's books, Mouk, the morals in Dr. Seuss

Comments (6)

  • Dang. Can I borrow “the boy” so we can read the book together? I really miss reading to my kids or rather I miss snuggling up on the couch or squished in a big chair to read with them. Did you tell him why the owl ate the lemming?

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      “That’s what owls do. They come out at night and eat little things. The owl goes whooo-whoooo. Do you know what an owl is?” My own special brand of bob-and-weave, known as answer-and-move-on-to-something-more-fun. I’ve wondered if all this reading will stick with him. Did it with yours, Suzanne?

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