A Touch of Bad Taste

On our anniversary, Elisabeth gave me Pablo Neruda's Residence on Earth.  I took it upon myself to read Henry Spain in Our Hearts, which is to me, the centrepiece of the whole book.  It's a beautiful poem, don't get me wrong but for the first time I felt uncomfortable reading something to Henry.  It was beyond the fact that for whatever reason he couldn't settle or get into the rhythm of the voice; it had to do with the horrible images of war, especially those of rivers of dead children's eyes floating in hell, gazing upon their killers face.  Such is war, however and, as many have expressed, anyone who glamorizes it encourages the acts of war.  This poem is a very harsh reminder about the reality of oppression, the resistance it will incur and the fate waiting for those who would put their greed above society's.

I'm more than happy to gently push my politics on my kid, without a context (In his brain), it felt weird reading him this.  If he understood any of it, I'm sure he didn't get the joyous contrast, after all the horror and war, of the Solar Ode to the Army of the People and not the floating eyeballs.

It was also the first time that Henry hasn't connected with a piece of writing.  Next up will be Rimbaud's Season in Hell with, hopefully, better results.

As and aside, I find it impossible to believe that Crass were not intimately with Neruda.  The repetition of phrases and imagery, as well as pentameter of his verse suspiciously mirrors a lot of their music, especially their later work dealing with the Falkland Wars:


Henry: The Official Files:

The newborn years:

Transitioning phase:

Official mugshot:

Counterpoint: Carle

Previously in this Blog That Never Gets Updated In Anyway That Makes Any Sense Whatsoever, I went on a bit of a tyrade that Elisabeth suggested may have scared some people off.   Originally, this was going to be a semblance of an apologia but, since those people are now aparantly scared off, I shall continue my rant:

Eric Carle is inexorably tied to Ms. Boynton in my mind, not just because their books are so often mass gifted but because he's the anti-Boynton.  Were I to ever complete my opus on Beatrix Potter, I would say that, in the world of Ms. Potter, he is the pictures, she is the words.

As I cannot remember all my points against Sandra Boynton and am too lazy to revisit them, I am going to use Eric Carle as a point-by-point refutation of Boynton in three acts, using only my dodgy memory and those books I've read as proof.

Act 1: The Very's:
The Very Hungry Caterpillar was the first book I read to Henry.  It's great because it's got one great big picture for little eyes to focus on with few enough words per page so those eyes don't get bored.  There's a payoff at the end with a Very Colourful Butterfly to gaze upon.  As Henry has gotten older, he's found the holes in the pages interesting to focus on.

There is an aural, visual, tactile sense going on with the three books in this trilogy.  The Very Busy Spider has a web that the child can feel and encouraging Henry to touch the pages and literally feel the web getting built (As well as seeing it) adds to the story.  The story itself is fairly repetitive but, unlike a certain author whose name rhymes with Sandra Boynton (oops), there is room to play around.  For example, giving each animals who speaks to the spider a different voice.  It helps that the pictures are big and bold and definite.  They are obvious enough so that a young child knows what hey are, yet intricate enough to make you want to keep looking.  They are a far cry from Boynton's stories which are basically made to amuse adults while reading to their child.

Finally, The Very Lonely Firefly works at an age stage higher than the first two.  Here, the pictures are dimmer (in keeping with the story) and have a more complex breakdown as there are speech bubbles added.  Also, the pictures are, in my opinion, scarier.  This all makes sense in the context of a tale about a firefly lost in the night looking for his friends.  I'm particularly partial to the ending and the Christmas light twinkling once (Spoiler!) the Very Lonely Firefly finds his friends.  This last page baffled Henry for a while until one night he finally noticed the firefly's were twinkling and he looked at me, did a triple-take and literally said, I kid you not, "My God, It's full of stars."

What I am poorly articulating is that in these three books, there is a story, art and a moral (Eat right; work hard; don't worry you'll fit in) that is good for kids, re-readable (Hundreds of times) for adults and, above all, interesting.  The story never gets in the way of the art and there is a parental freedom to interpret how you will.

Act 2: The What Do you Sees?

Technically these are not by Eric Carle, he just provided the art.  That said, I believe that somewhere I addressed how Ms. Boynton could have been better served by better writing.  Here, Eric Carle lends his art to an excellent series of books.  The story is straight-forward & repetitive for the kid, the pictures are big & bold, there's a sense that something's going on but you're not quite sure what that something is.

Henry genuinely seems to like these as I'm sure in his world he's hearing & seeing mumble, mumble, PICTURE!  And as the series progresses and the pictures become increasingly detailed, there is more for him to look at.  Honestly, this is what Sandra Boynton should have done a long time, focusing her art on someone else's stories.

(Of course she would then have to do things like draw in detail, make things bold & appealing to children, not the weird adultopods she imagines that the all are, but I digress...)

Act 3: The My Very Firsts:

Henry's not gotten into these yet and, while I have the Very First Book of Words, Shapes, Food & Animal Homes, I also appear to be missing several others including, numbers, colours, motion, animal sounds and bowel movements.  The four I have i got on sale and, while Henry's not old enough to be able to figure them out, they serve two great purposes.

The first is that they're split down the middle which mean that if you're a baby like Henry, there's double the pages to turn!  Carle's bold colours and artwork continue to draw his attention offer him something to do with the book as well as some enjoyment.

The second is that the  bold colours and artwork continue to draw his attention offer him something to do with the book as well as some enjoyment.  Crap.  That's the first one.  I'll come up with points two and maybe even a third once Henry's at the stage where he is able to figure out that a doggie live in a doghouse (The animal homes book is hard.  I've not been able to figure them all out)

The point is that Eric Carle, as opposed to other writers, seems to 'get' kids.  And parents.  When I finish reading Henry one of his books I don't feel like I've made him a target for bullying.