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Feb172013

Will the Real Dr. Suess Please Stand Up?

Yesterday I went into Barnes & Noble.  Maybe it had been a while, or maybe I am looking at things through a different lens these days.  Maybe it was the Michaels/B&N combo that did me in.  You can call me a snob or a royal pain in the ass, but  I am going to say it anyway - what is this load of commercialized crap that is being passed off as “children’s literature”?  (Not to mention all of the crappy, commercialized toys you now have to walk by to even get to the children’s books).  

I would love to know what percentage of children’s books they had to offer that are not tied in to a television show or movie series.  Sadly, no matter how much you limit a child’s exposure to television, they are still going to go straight for Dora the darned Explorer.  I feel sad for the innovative storytellers and gifted illustrators whose quality books get hidden behind the mountains of Doras, Disney Princesses and Super heroes.  

Here’s what I think (for what its worth)...

  1. We are killing creativity by surrounding children (suffocating them?) with the same crap  everywhere they go.  Only they don’t know it.  We are the ones who are supposed to know better.
  2. We are turning our children into buying machines (hoarders?), wanting, needing, obsessing over having every single thing from band-aids to soup to underpants with that “amazing” character on them.  It is reinforced by television, by friends, by well meaning adults who want to make the child happy.  We know that anything with Bob the Builder on it will make Johnny squeal with delight, so we buy it.    The industry knows this, so they keep cranking it out.  
  3. When someone does come up with something really innovative and creative we kill it by turning it into a vehicle to sell, sell, sell more crap, crap, crap.

Where does all of this commercialized crap that we don’t need go when we are done with it?  How many resources are used to produce it?  

On that note - just think about this for a minute...  

Think about the sick, laughable irony of what has been done to Dr. Suess.  Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Suess) was way ahead of his time.  This man was able to delight children while slipping in some pretty important messages (aimed as much, or perhaps more so, at parents as they were at children). They are messages about greed, selfishness, boasting, karma, redemption and environmentalism.  In his book, The Lorax, he tried to “speak for the trees.” Are you familiar with the story?  I think most people are, but just in case, I will give you a synopsis -

The environment is completely ruined because a man chopped down all the trees and polluted the air and the water by mass producing a product in his factory that “everyone needs.”

Hmm.

I will leave you with these words by Geisel himself:

 

 

 

 

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Reader Comments (3)

This post echos my own thoughts. I am overwhelmed by the ugliness of the images in most of the books produced for children today. However, it is possible to avoid the hideous characters and commercialization. We just don't have TV. My kids don't ever see Dora, and they show no interest when they see her bizarre head. They do show some interest in the images in the library of Thomas the Tank Engine (they are boys after all) but I just will not read those books or anything like it. No Clifford, no Arthur, no Elmo, no "Cars", no "characters" at all. It takes vigilance, but they have gotten to the ripe old age of two-and-a-half and they don't know a single corporate character. I am a fanatic, though. I don't even use Band-Aids, Q-tips or Kleenex, we only have tissues, cotton swabs and adhesive bandages. This is not normal, I know. Someday they will know about these things, but for now it's at bay.
I am especially saddened by the commercialization of the work of brilliant writers like Dr. Seuss and A.A. Milne. The awful movies made from The Grinch and The Cat in the Hat are tricky, since the books are good unsuspecting parents are lured into thinking that the movies will be also. Note, none of these were made during his lifetime. The Disney-fication of Pooh is so sad. The actual Winnie the ooh books are brilliant works of fiction that can be enjoyed by children and adults but there is a ton of Disney junk out there with the Pooh "characters" in it that is worthless.

I could go on and on about the junk out there, but I will stop myself now and offer a breath of hope. We do have some power, and there is still beauty. We must pay attention and believe that beauty and authenticity matters. We must find and trust our own instincts. We must peel away what we don't need to show the essence of truth underneath. The simplest things are what our children thrive on. Dirt, sticks and rocks, water to scoop and pour, the clouds passing by. Adults doing work, birds in flight, the "show" is here now.

February 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

AH YES I feel you on this one!! It reminds me of an experience we had in such a store. Maru and I were getting a birthday present for my sister but we had to "look" at the toys since they are every where you turn. Maru feel in love with an Elmo toy. I said calmly, "I'm sorry he is not coming with us." (In my mind i was thinking pretty much everything you just wrote.) That's when the crying(it may have been screaming) broke out. I thought, O.K. I will just walk up to the front, pay and leave. Everyone has heard a kid throw a tantrum before the right thing is to follow through, stay calm and leave without the Elmo toy!!

So with all eyes burning holes through me , I made it to the cash. I would get out with the book for my sister and we will be fine when we get outside. The cash register lady said " what's the matter little boy." So I replied, gritting my teeth " he just really liked the Elmo toy which we aren't getting today." Trying to put a half hearted, sideways smile on my face. Then the lady reaches under the counter and pulls out an Elmo toy! SHE GIVES him the TOY the very ELMO I was painstackingly following through on NOT leaving that store with!!!!the very toy I was running away from, making a point to leave behind!! Did she think I couldn't afford the $5 doll? Did she think she was doing me a favor? She was probably just thinking make him stop! I will never quite be sure what she was thinking. By that point I was in a sweaty, rage with my blood boiling over. We went home Maru named that Elmo doll "glee-glee" and played with him for a couple days.......glee-glee went missing and hasn't't been seen for a while.......hmmmm mystery.

When we go to B&N since I've always explained that the toys that are there LIVE there and they really DO NOT want to leave. We've never made SUCH a scene since..... For now at least.

So yes I hear you on this post sooooooo well. Sell, Sell, Sell! Conform conform conform. Turn off turn on turn off..... Ahhh yes. You are so right.

February 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterZoe

Thank you, Ladies. Amber, more power to you! I have given in on the child-sized band aids and night time pull ups because finding either without characters seemed impossible. Zoe, I can't believe that story! I'm sure in some way she was trying to help. Too funny. I don't know if you ever read my other blog post "Toytervention" but I too have some toys I am less than thrilled with at home. Its hard, especially when well meaning people give things to you that you wish they hadn't. It happens - except to Amber! ;-)

February 19, 2013 | Registered CommenterBethany Stewart

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