DO NOT read to your children
I know, this goes against ever parenting book ever written. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reading to your children every day, preferably in lieu of allowing them to watch television (the sacrilege!)
And I know that coming from a writer, this must seem like strange advice. But have you seriously sat down and read some of these books? I have, and let’s just say that the Horror Network’s programming isn’t half as scary. Let’s start with a few classics:
Are You My Mother?Hello, abandonment issues. Mama bird leaves her egg in the nest (hey, she needed a smoke, who can blame her?) While she’s gone, the egg hatches (so much for her maternal instincts) and the baby bird fumbles along looking for someone to imprint on. Let’s just say that at least for my two year-old, the prospect of mommy being replaced by a power shovel was terrifying. Toss this one on the scrap pile.
Mike Mulligan And His Steam Shovel (Again with the power shovels.) My husband and I were so excited when we spotted this familiar red cover in the bookstore. “I loved this book growing up!” We said simultaneously, rushing to the cash register to fork over $16 for a paperback. (Side note: that’s another complaint I have, the cost of these books. You can pick up a forty pound tome of War and Peace for less than the price of a Babar book). We raced home, plunked our daughter on the couch, and began to read. A page or two in we realized that this treasured story from our childhood actually involved the wholesale rape of the environment by Mike and said Steam Shovel. Watch, as they plow under verdant fields to build skyscrapers and rail lines and malls, oh my! Horribly depressing.
Ten Little Ladybugs This one is actually more recent, so I figured it must be PC, right? Only if “PC” includes introducing your child to the grim reality of life in the wild at a tender age. The title should have been my first clue. “Just like Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians,” I joked with my husband when my daughter unwrapped the book. And you know what? It really, truly is. The ladybugs get picked off one by one by a variety of predators ranging from grasshoppers to frogs. And here’s the publisher’s description: “In Ten Little Ladybugs, one by one, ten tactile bugs disappear. Where did they all go?” Yes, where, indeed? Brace yourself for a discussion of the circle of life with this one.
Five Little Monkeys Sitting In A Tree The similar title should have been my first clue. Yep, this little board book provides another lesson in Darwinian natural selection. Mama Monkey falls asleep after a picnic (what is it with these mothers?) and leaves her offspring unattended. They climb up a tree (they are, after all, monkeys), jump on a branch…one falls off and would you look at that, there’s a crocodile waiting down below. Bye bye, Mr Monkey. And what do the rest do? They keep jumping. What precisely is that supposed to teach my child? Where’s the learning from your mistakes? And as a bonus, there are some delightful renderings of distraught monkey relatives sobbing. Just want you want to see at bedtime.
Mind you, I haven’t even touched upon Grimm’s Fairy Tales, with their wolves in Grandma clothing and witches fattening children up for private consumption; grim indeed. And let’s not forget Mother Goose, with a baby’s cradle tumbling out of the trees, and poor Jack and Jill.
No, all in all I think it’s probably best to sit your kids down in front of reality television and call it a day. Simon Cowell never murdered anyone (at least, not literally. That we know of.)
So , let’s hear it: what’s your favorite (or least favorite) gruesome children’s book, and why? Extra points (and a signed first edition of Boneyard, another cheery tale by yours truly) go to the contestant with the best response. And if you don’t win the book, console yourself by signing up for my newsletter at www.michellegagnon.com, which will enter you in a drawing to win an Amazon Kindle, iPod Shuffle, Starbucks gift certificates, or other fabulous prizes (perhaps even a barely-used copy of Ten Little Ladybugs).
Michelle Gagnon is a former modern dancer, bartender, dog walker, model, personal trainer, and Russian supper club performer. Her debut thriller THE TUNNELS was an IMBA bestseller. Her next book, BONEYARD, depicts a cat and mouse game between dueling serial killers. In her spare time she runs errands and wonders what a power shovel is anyway.