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Jungle Life

Jungles
Stein
1977

Submitter: I couldn’t quite believe we still had this on the shelves, following the recent controversy over appropriating Native American dress. This children’s book shows how ‘you and your friends can decorate yourselves and pretend you are living in a jungle village.’ My favourite completely inappropriate jungle-inspired game though has to be The Pygmy’s Path. This book, and others like it, was my childhood in a nutshell, and a classic example of how times have changed!

Holly:  There is a fine line between teaching children about other cultures through playing their games and wearing their clothes and eating their foods…and complete and utter disrespect by turning all that into a farce, or mockery. Here is a missed opportunity that should have been weeded long ago.

More Cultural Awareness:

Two times the fun with Eskimoes

Sunburnt Africa

Strangers in a Strange Land

Eski-mo-no-you-didn’t

9 Responses to Jungle Life

  • Lighten up-Kids have been dressing up as Indians, Mexicans, Sponge Bob and every other known minority for years….and the people of the jungle still don’t care!

  • “Many jungle peoples paint their faces and bodies and decorate themselves with jewelry.” Wow! Just we do today in the U.S.A. And WTH is the kid with a hatchet doing on the floor??

  • I am waiting for a South American anthropologist to write a book on “Tribe-Identifying Tattoos and Piercings of North America in the 21st Century”, complete with National-Geographic style sketches of nude, tattooed, and pierced bodies. We deserve it!

  • Looks similar to some books I weeded recently from our school library. Made me ashamed about my collection.

  • I can’t see anything at all inappropriate about “The Pygmy’s Path”. The Pygmy peoples do make their living mainly as hunter-gatherers. This looks like a reasonable depiction (in board-game form) of how a Pygmy hunter might go out on a typical expedition, set out straightforwardly, neither patronising nor insulting. It looks interesting, and might make children think about ways of life that are very different from their own.

    Nor is there much wrong with the other spread. The pictures of the South American and New Guinea people are realistic depictions. The crafts are the typical sort of thing aimed at the age range of the readership, and the same for the cartoonish children making them and playing with the results. It’s annoying that the book seems to be lumping together “jungle people” who live half a world from each other, and isn’t discussing the cultural significance of the face-painting and other adornments — but who’s to say the pages immediately before or after these don’t address this exact topic?

    • I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the game itself, just with the name, as ‘pygmy’ is not a term that any of the people the author is referring to use to describe themselves, and is often considered pejorative. If the author could just have mentioned some people who call themselves a name beginning with ‘P’ and called it that instead, or just called in the less-alliterative but fine “jungle path,” I don’t think there’d be a problem.

      As for the activity pages, I think their biggest problem is that the instructions are really nonspecific and terrible. “Make beads” out of things. That’s going to work fine for your average 7 year old…

  • The idea of ‘jungle people’ seems quite offensive and racist. There is a terrible refugee camp in Calais where the F
    rench authorities have confined thousands of migrants who are desperate to get to the United Kingdom. Many of them try to hide on trucks using cross-Channel ferries; some have died in the attempt. Without realising how racist and obscene they are being, the French call this camp ‘the New Jungle’. This phrase has been taken up by British newspapers, none of whom have expressed any disgust that simply because many of the inhabitants are Africans, then it’s OK to refer to the place they live in as a ‘jungle’.