Grumpy after Christmas


It’s the day after Christmas and I am GRUMPY. Don’t get me wrong, I had a good Christmas which started with a church service in which the young people did a wonderful sketch or skit in which the local Bethlehem newspaper reporters try to get a photo of the birth of Christ. They start off well, talking about the importance and uniqueness of Christ and try to take a photo of the baby Jesus in the manger with Mary and Joseph behind looking at him, the parents – to get the family angle. Then the photographer decides to emphasise that the birth is in a manger by trying to place the cow and the donkey in the picture.

“Well, if you are going to have the cow and donkey, then I insist we include the shepherds and their flocks of sheep.” retorts the reporter and she invites the shepherds to line up for the photograph.

Well, next the three wisemen arrive and they cannot be left out of the picture and if them, why not invite jolly Santa as well. Then if Santa is in the picture, the story would not be complete if there was no Christmas tree, presents, kids having fun or mother’s baking cookies. Let’s not forget to include the business angle too with shop owners and businesses offering discounts and holiday offers.

And so on and so forth, until there is a huge crowd of characters all trying to crowd into the picture. The photographer tries to frame the picture and asks the reporter for advice. They both agree the picture is too cluttered and decide to remove the baby and the manger so that everyone else can move closer together and be included in the picture. So finally, reporter and photographer have an article about how everyone else had been involved in Christmas without the inconvenience of having to cover a story about a tiny baby and what he became.

Okay back to being GRUMPY!. I also had a wonderful Briayni Rice dinner with close friends, drank merry measures of Australian and French wines, and perhaps slept a little too late. So perhaps the late night led partially to a grumpy morning since over here it is not a holiday and I had to work.

But the number one reason that I am GRUMPY is because of children’s books. My host for Christmas dinner, has a cute little three year old minx named, Emma. Emma loves parties and had a great time greeting guests at the door, relieving them of Christmas presents and placing the presents under the Christmas tree. Unusual for a child her age, she had no great urge to rip open the presents, preferring to decorate the tree with them.

Nevertheless, when I dropped by early this morning before I went to work, she had unwrapped several books. I, of course, obliged when she asked me to read a short children’s book to her. I read the book aloud with gusto, giving different voices to the different weird characters in the tale. However, long before I reached the end of the story I was dismayed.

The story was about a starving anteater who meets characters like the umbrella eater and the sticky tape sucker and the walking stick licker and the encyclopedia chomper. He asks each of them in turn if they have any ants as he is starving but they either don’t care or don’t bother to understand his needs and the anteater has misadventures trying to eat umbrellas, suck sticky tapes, lick walking sticks and chomp encyclopedias. At last he meets one creature who takes him home and there in his home was an ants nest and the anteater gratefully feasted on the ants until he was no longer starving but was full and plump. At this point, he thanks his benefactor and asks how is it there is an ants nest in his house. The benefactor then reveals that he has the ants nest as he is an anteater eater and proceeds to eat our anteater.

Why? Why would someone write a story like that for children? It does not teach compassion for the starving anteater but it teaches fear of strangers and not to trust anyone’s benevolence. The child is invited to laugh at the anteater’s misfortunes, ridicule and ultimately his death.

I brought it to the attention of Emma’s mother who informed me that she had already banned another book earlier that morning. In this other book, the hero of the story refers to the other characters as Stupid. Why would we want our children to learn to call other children “hey Stupid.” Why would anyone write this for children?

I never believed that we had to ban books or watch what our children read until now. Watching out for trash in children’s literature? Well, sign me up.

Now that’s why I am GRUMPY one day after Christmas.

Meet Grumpy, the Children’s Literature Watchdog

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