1. First, a game. We have been gardening up a storm here in preparation for the Mazza Institute visit to my studio and wherever I work in the garden, Izzi makes herself a fort. See if you can spot the spaniel.
2. Second, mucking about in murky morals.
“I might have lied,” said Izzy. “But let’s not get bogged down in the facts.”
Does that sound like a clip from a recent White House statement? Perhaps something Kellyanne ‘alternative facts’ Conway might say?
Nope. It’s from my book Frank and Izzy Set Sail, published in 2004 by Candlewick Press. Lately, my grandson has taken to this book. (Like Izzy, he loves ukuleles.) My daughter, who has been reading it several times a day, pointed out the connection between Izzy’s relationship to the truth and the present administration’s.
Which led us to wonder what other children’s books espouse less-than-honorable behavior.
In my book, Izzy’s lying has a bad influence on Frank – later in the story he says, “Could be my grandma was a pirate, too.” He’s trying out lying. My intention is humor, not to encourage kid-readers to lie. I expect kids will be in on the joke. But it gives me pause in light of present events.
Does it matter – when you think about how stories shape the character of our small readers – if immoral behavior is not addressed? There are consequences when Peter Rabbit steals from Farmer MacGregor. He is sent to bed without supper. Whereas Max in Where the Wild Things Are returns to a warm supper. Hmm. Perhaps this reflects a softening of parental attitudes between 1902 and 1963? (Kellyanne Conway was born in 1967 so we can assume she was read Wild Things when she was a peerie lass.)
What other characters in children’s books come to mind? Any other liars, thieves, tantrum-throwers? Or sexist, bigoted, disrespectful, ignorant narcissists? What is the cost of immoral behavior in picture books? Does it matter?
It matters, it matters. But what really matters is to teach kids how to live with ambiguity, how to know that fine line between playing and imagining and serious lying-for-real. Because there is the liar-in-chief who never learned the difference.
Exactly, Uma. Thanks for this wisdom. Fiction gives us a place to try out ideas and actions that don’t work in the real world. Stories can be a great place to learn about keeping fiction and fact straight.
I was recently pondering a similar issue with regard to fighting/violence. Someone recently questioned a program being offered about the history of Wonder Woman and it led to a question about the role of Super Heroes & the use of violence. Much science fiction also has this but would we not want to have Star Wars in our society? I think your point about understanding the difference between reality and fantasy is key.