Monday, January 30, 2012

Classic Children's Books that Wouldn't Be Today

I love reading with my kids. I've been delighted to discover a number of new books that my kids and I both enjoy, but I really love reading the classics with them. Reading them the books that I enjoyed as a kid. I loved Corduroy and The Snowy Day when I was a kid and I love reading them to my kids, now.

For a few of these books, I've noticed that while the charm of the stories endures the test of time, some of them show their age here and there. What if some of these books were set in modern times? What would happen?

Make Way For Ducklings

An adorable story about Mr. & Mrs. Mallard and their quest for the perfect spot in Boston in which to hatch their ducklings. One of their first stops is the Public Garden, and while the natural offerings are scant, the good people on the boat feed them peanuts. This wouldn't happen today. There would be signs all over that park warning people not to feed the ducks, that bread and peanuts, etc., are not part of a duck's natural environment and are thus unhealthy for our fowl friends.

Later in the book, the Mallards befriend a policeman called Michael (another peanut-feeding enemy of nature). When Mrs. Mallard and the ducklings have trouble crossing a busy highway, Michael stops traffic for them, then calls Clancy and headquarters and sends a police car to the next busy intersection to help that line of ducks across the street. Today, Michael and Clancy would be called in for an investigation for misusing police resources.

Dick and Jane

So much about Dick and Jane is just plain wrong now. Little Sally says so many inappropriate things, "I like Dick too, Jane. Do you like Dick?" "Let's all find Dick. We want Dick!" "Oh Mother, look! We did find Dick! We did!" I'm pretty sure Sally wound up being a pole dancer.

The Cat in the Hat

This book wouldn't happen today. The kids wouldn't have the chance to have raucous adventures with a top-hat wearing cat because no mother in her right mind would ever leave two elementary school-aged kids alone all day. If she did, she'd be hauled off to jail. Also, today Nick and Sally wouldn't have been bored, sitting and staring out the window, they wouldn't have noticed the weather because they'd be too busy playing their Kinect or XBox...

The Snowy Day

Peter's mom wouldn't have heard about his adventures while she took off his wet socks. She would have witnessed them first-hand. Again, no mother today is letting a kid who's too young to join in the big boys' snowball fight, go out and play in the snow on his own in Brooklyn all day -- not even Park Slope.


Number one, that teddy bear would be the subject of a recall today. A toy whose buttons fall off so easily is a definite choking hazard. Number two, old Corduroy wouldn't have had the chance to get up on that escalator and explore the furniture department. He'd be so locked in by that impossible plastic packaging, that he'd never get the chance to have any adventures at all. The sales lady wouldn't have to ask the little girl "Shall I put him in a box for you?" Instead, rather than clutching him in her arms as she ran upstairs to her family's apartment, the little girl would have to hand that box over to her mom and wait impatiently while her mom grabbed some industrial scissors and spent 10 minutes cutting Corduroy out of his box.

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