Saturday, July 24, 2010

More Awful Children's Books

In a recent post I claimed that a lot, maybe even the majority, of children's books are complete crap, and I got several responses from people suggesting specific books I might enjoy reading to Stella. Thank you for the suggestions -- I know there's plenty of good material out there as well, but it's just so much more fun to complain about the stinkers. It's a little like reading the restaurant reviews in the New York Times; the restaurants described are a thousand miles away, so there's no particular reason to read a positive review since I will never eat at that restaurant. On the other hand a negative review can be hilarious when the writer describes in excruciating detail why the ahi tuna reminds him of something dug out of a dumpster or why the flourless chocolate cake deserves to be run over repeatedly with a moped.

I also love reading negative movie reviews and keep a special place in my heart for A.O. Scott at the Times, who once described the movie Van Helsing as resembling an "especially lavish episode of 'Scooby-Doo' mounted on a scaffold of baroque supernaturalism." I actually saw Van Helsing in the theater back in 2004, and it was so bad that Hugh Jackman DIDN'T EVEN LOOK CUTE. I don't know how they did managed to accomplish that; must have been some digital manipulation in post-production. My favorite moment in Van Helsing, which was some sort of historical vampire action flick, occurred when the horse and carriage that Hugh Jackman was riding in went out of control, with the horses running at top speed towards a steep cliff. Monseiur Non-Hottie managed to leap from the carriage just as it careened over the edge of the precipice. The carriage smashed to bits on the rocks below and BLEW UP, with a giant mushroom of fire, because in movies like things always blow up, only this was a horse and carriage! What could possibly cause a horse and carriage to blow up? A giant tank of gasoline, 200 years before it was actually invented? Too much vampire hairspray? Excessive equine flatulence? The whole movie was excessive equine flatulence if you know what I mean, and at one particularly emotionally manipulative moment that was supposed to be tender, I started guffawing in disbelief and whispered loudly to David that since he chose that particular movie, I would be the one picking the movies we went to for the next several years. Or possibly the next several lifetimes.

This finally brings me to my point, which is that I find it entertaining to make fun of stupid things, and I'm going to do it about more children's books. This page is from Pat The Bunny by Dorothy Kuhnhardt, which of course is a classic. Originally published in the 1940s, it was apparently illustrated by someone who was drunk. (I just googled Pat the Bunny to see who the author was, and the autocomplete feature suggested -- I am serious -- "Pat the Bunny rehab." I don't know what that is but I think ol' Dorothy might have benefited.)

Does any part of this child's body strike you as being unusually prominent? Judy's got some serious back, folks. Half her body is butt. Kinda looks like a big bubble, doesn't it? I just love the phrase "two cats fighting under a blanket" and something tells me Judy does too. The frighteningly large rabbit, on the other hand, has forelegs that look as if they have been amputated. How does this animal walk? Its upper stumps are not long enough to reach the ground, especially considering the pear-shaped midsection. Perhaps the bunny is pregnant, which would explain Judy's look of concentration as she tries to determine fundal height.

The companion book to Pat the Bunny is Pat the Puppy, which was written by Dorothy's daughter Edith. The drawing skills of the mother were apparently visited upon the daughter. This page has a wheel on the side (which you can't see in this picture) that you can turn to see pictures of the kids in the book when they were younger.

Ack! What's that red stuff on that baby's head? Edith's idea of a cute baby apparently involves scalp lacerations. That baby needs stitches. And that is one of the worst cases of thigh cellulite I've ever seen. You know how the trashy supermarket check-out line magazines run pictures of celebrities at the beach, pointing out their cellulite? This baby should not read those magazines. It would be bad for her self-esteem.

"What cute babies!" exclaims the book, but these babies do not look cute to me. No, these babies look like future residents of Sing Sing to me. Already they are dreaming about ways to try to assassinate the president. The baby in yellow is obviously crippled -- what is that strange lump on her shoulder? -- but that won't stop her from becoming a criminal mastermind. The red-headed baby will be the dumb lunk who just follows orders, especially when those orders involve dumping bodies in secluded areas.

No matter how violent, how depraved, how meaningless their life of crime turns out to be, remember this: It could be worse. It could be Van Helsing.

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