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picture books

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Rolling Harvey Down the Hill

Rolling Harvey down the Hill coverRolling Harvey Down the Hill
Prelutsky
1980

Submitter: This is another children’s book that was initially pulled because of its condition. It has had a lot of circulation since it was acquired in 1989 but only 2 circulations in 20 years. On closer inspection, the book sent up all kinds of red flags. The “story” is about a group of boys who are friends told through poetry. The book could easily be renamed “Boys will be boys,” but it is pretty hard to excuse the bad behavior described in the book. They pick on and make fun of other children, attempt smoking, fight, break windows, pick noses, etc. Harvey has the worst behavior and goes so far as to tie two of his friends to a tree and pull their pants down! Finally, the other boys become fed up with Harvey and decide to roll him down the hill.

I have a pretty low tolerance for books that actual encourage bullying and hurting of kids by other kids. I suppose at one time this could have been nostalgic or even a boys will be boys kind of book, but not anymore.

Holly: Awwww, Jack Prelutsky  was one of my favorite authors when I was a kid <*cough* 30+ years ago *cough*>. His books are funny and the poetry format is enticing to reluctant readers. That said, bullying is a serious subject. Rolling Harvey down the hill in retaliation probably isn’t the message we’re trying to send these days. Not that it ever was, but we have different sensibilities about these things now than we did in 1980.

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Don’t Call Me Fatso

Don't Call Me Fatso coverDon’t Call Me Fatso
Philips
1993

Submitter: This is a “sensitive” story about Rita who is overweight. Rita has to face being weighed in front of her entire class and being told she needs to go on a diet. She then is bullied by her classmates in art class and swim class. She uses food to deal with her emotions. But after some effort, Rita finally looses weight where she is told she is a healthy girl and no one bullies her anymore.

This book came to our attention after a horrified story time mom found it on the shelf. The book has not circulated in at least ten years. I took the time to read the book and the story has a lot of mixed messages. Childhood obesity is certainly an important, but complex topic, that would be difficult to tell in a short children’s story. A lot of things are glossed over like bullying and self-esteem. The doctor says she needs a diet at one weight and then after losing only 5 pounds she is suddenly healthy. I don’t know how one writes a book for kids on this topic, but this one is not it.

Holly: Books like this bother me more than just about any other thing. Jennifer Jean the Cross-Eyed Queen got her eyes fixed and suddenly had friends. Maggie went on a diet and suddenly had friends. Make it stopppppp!

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Horse Play

I'll be the Horse coverI’ll Be the Horse If You’ll Play With Me
Alexander
1975

Submitter: I’ll Be the Horse If You’ll Play With Me…..well the cover just says it all! While weeding our picture books I came across this 1975 gem. I did a double take when I read the cover. It’s just the wording that tripped me up. The little girl is offering to be the horse. I opened the book expecting to see her sitting on his back, galloping around. The older brother is actually just reclining on pillows on a kart while his little sister pulls him around. He finally agrees to give her a turn, but only if she lets him use her brand new crayons. The big bully uses up all her paper and then decides they should play cops and robbers instead. So now we move on from being a horse to being the one tied up (the robber). There’s another boy, perhaps another older brother and he offers to play with her. It’s this great little game called 52 Pickup. He throws the deck up in the air and then tells her to pick up all 52 cards. Poor kid can’t catch a break. Not even her dog or cat will play with her. She then happens upon her younger brother who is pulling the same kart with a doll in it. She gets this look on her face and then the last page is her reclining like a queen while he is the horse pulling her. I’m not sure what the lesson is here exactly….Take advantage of the weaker one?

Holly: Ha ha ha! This could be titled “Holly’s Childhood.” I am a middle child, so my older sister pulled stunts like this on me and I, in turn, tortured my little sister. Good times. Also, every time we asked my Dad to play cards, his signature answer was “Let’s play 52 Pick Up!”

I was born one year before this was published, making it 42 years old. I bet it circulated like crazy over the years, but it might raise some eyebrows in 2017.

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