Monday, August 25, 2008

Silliest children's plot ever

Over the weekend, we bought Sonny his first book. Sure, we've been reading him a few volumes that we'd borrowed from the library, and friends or relatives had contributed a couple of cloth books (which should in the papyrus category as far as we're concerned). But these don't count. Stow the 'Ain't that nice!' choruses, though, because unfortunately the book was a disaster.

Now, we have to admit we didn't make our literary choice based on a careful analysis of the likelihood of its stimulating Sonny's vocabulary growth, or flowering of his imagination, or anything like that. We got it because on its cover, there was this ridiculous chicken that seemed more or less mesmerised. Pa has a weakness for amusing chickens. But the next time you see a book with a ridiculous chicken that seems more or less mesmerised, avoid it like the plague. The ridiculous plot involved a fox kidnapping a chicken (the feathery friend featured on the cover) but then taking a break in the forest for a quick snooze. Naturally, the hen escapes from the unsecured cloth bag that she had been placed in - but sticks around long enough to load it with rocks.

Anyway, the world's stupidest fox awakes from his beauty sleep and heads home all unsuspecting, whereupon he builds a cooking fire before emptying the contents of the cloth bag into a pot. We can't resist quoting you the last two sentences of the book: "The stones fell splash! into the hot water. "Ouch!" said Sly Fox. "I really hate that hen!"

Well, we really hate the book. The best thing that can be said for it is that at least the fox used a cloth bag instead of a plastic bag, which is a nice, ecologically-aware gesture. Now, we know that four-month-old children are not yet literary critics with a fine eye for absurdity. But this is a little too much (and we haven't even told you about how Foxy snared the chicken: He ran around and around her until she was so dazed from following his progress, she toppled into the cloth bag).

The worrying thing, and the reason why we're going to be a little more discerning about throwing our money away on dud books from now on, is that young children will swallow any old baloney we give them and take it as an acceptable foundation for further exploration. There's a heartwarming side to it, of course: Even the humblest home will forever be a palace, the ultimate home-sweet-home, and so on. But when it comes to laying down the intellectual, or cultural, or literary foundations for further expansion, we probably want to give them the soundest materials from the start. They can go on and embrace faddish nonsense later, but the basics are important.

And minimally-logical plot devices trump amusing cover chickens any time.


Anonymous said...

"The best thing that can be said for it is that at least the fox used a cloth bag instead of a plastic bag, which is a nice, ecologically-aware gesture" LOL good one.

I tend to stick to the classics like the Hungry Caterpillar and other books I remember from my own childhood. Modern books are a real hit and miss.

Cloudsters said...

We read lots of Enid Blyton, but she's in the doghouse now, isn't she? Ladybird seemed like a safe bet... but - yep, you guessed it - this inane chicken/fox tale was a Ladybird. Sigh.