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’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.
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 . . .