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picture books

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A Bible Story for the Kids

I am Joseph coverI Am Joseph

Submitter: I am a fan of Barbara Cohen, author of such classics as The Carp in the Bathtub and Molly’s Pilgrim, but this is not an appropriate picture book for children! The complex sentence structure! The language! The illustrations! Who thought this was a good idea?! I have nothing against retelling Bible stories as children’s books, but there must be cleaner versions of Joseph’s story! This one reads like a romance novel!

Some of my favorite excerpts:

Judah, to his brothers, about what to do with Joseph after they’ve tied him up and thrown him naked into a pit: “‘If we leave our brother here to die, it’s the same as if we killed him with our own hands. Let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites, so that we’re not guilty of murder. For, after all, he is our brother, our own flesh.’ ‘Besides,’ Asher said, ‘if we sell him, there’s profit in it for us.’”

Joseph, describing his master’s wife: “He had a wife who was much younger than he, and very beautiful. She wore transparent dresses, like a prostitute, and heavy collars of gold around her neck … Her nearly naked body would brush against mine, and I could smell her musky perfume.”

The wife repeatedly propositions Joseph until finally: “She reached out her hand and grasped the knot by which my loincloth was held in place. ‘Lie with me, Joseph,’ she said yet again. She pulled at the knot, it came undone, and my loincloth was in her hand. Her eyes grew wide as she beheld my nakedness, but I, not sure of the strength of my own will, turned as quickly as I could and fled away from her.”

Holly: Bible meets 50 Shades? This was found in a nonsectarian private school library, but it is most definitely not elementary school material!

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TV Problems

boy who turned into a tv setThe Boy Who Turned Into A TV Set

Thanks to a tip, I found this lovely book. It’s obvious this book is outdated. You youngsters might not know about “rabbit ears” (antenna) but if you are over 40, you probably had to help hold them in the right place so the picture wouldn’t be fuzzy. I think I spent the majority of the 1960s holding the rabbit ears while my dad fussed with tin foil.

Anachronisms not withstanding, this book is odd because it looks like a picture book but the text is pretty dense. There are even “chapters.” The basic story is that this boy watches so much TV, he ends up having a television on his stomach. (They never do address the health issues associated with this phenomenon. Kind of disappointing.) I am not sure of the intended audience for this book.

I am not sure I like the illustrations either. The people’s faces look weird and for the life of me I can’t figure out if the woman in the last picture is actually holding a box of ducks. She also needs a better bra. Any kiddie lit experts want to weigh in? I don’t get it.


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Rolling Harvey Down the Hill

Rolling Harvey down the Hill coverRolling Harvey Down the Hill

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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